Stunned by a 6 year old!

Posted on Jul 8, 2012

Different Mindsets

As a child, the world is mystery. That’s exciting!. Much has to be learned and remembered. When a child approaches a new task, they harbor no preconception of how to do it or what solutions are required – they go for it.They tackle it with an open mind.They figure out how to solve the problem – one step at a time. Experimentation and reconfiguration: the heart of creativity. As adults, we have the advantage of a mental database we consistently turn to for answers. Often, a database proves to be exactly what we need. If we need to answer a trivia question or recall how we successfully completed a task in the past, the database can be a life-saver. When we need to learn something new, or change the way we approach a task, it becomes a liability.

It hit me recently that children have not learned to rely on a mental database as I attempted to teach my six year old son about humor. We started with knock-knock jokes. He did not get it. His early efforts were the typical stuff of six-year old boys:

“Knock-knock dad”
“Who’s there?”
“Your pants are on fire” (enters laughing fit)

This happened over and over again, and I, like most of you reading this, did not find the joke to be as funny as he did. It missed the mark on irony and that crucial element of surprise. We left the project off at that and I figured I would come back to it later.

The next week I traveled to Dallas to give a presentation. When I opened my suitcase at the hotel I only had one dress shoe. The other one could only be at my house, or else in the collection of a strange type of shoe thief. In thinking about where it could be I used my database mindset in the way we have been taught to when we lost something. “Donato, think back to the last time you saw both shoes.” I remembered that my son and his two-year old sister had been playing with my shoes when I was packing. I picked up the phone, called home and asked to speak to my son.

“Hi Dad”
“Hey, I am here for my work presentation and I am missing a shoe. I remembered you and your sister playing with my shoes. Did you take it out of my suitcase before I left?”
“Knock-knock”, he said.
“I don’t have time for that right now. I need to know where my shoes are, can you just please go check?”
(in my sternest ‘Dad’ voice) “I said I don’t have time. I need to know if the shoe got lost at the airport or if it is at home so I can make other phone calls .. Go check and see if the shoe is somewhere where you and your sister were playing.” “Come on dad. Knock-knock. Pleeeeaseeee!” At this moment I decided to focus on the most important part of my life…being a Dad. Big breath and then: “Who’s there?”, I said. “Your other shoe is in your suitcase side-pocket. Ha Ha Ha”

Me, Dad, CEO, late 40’s, stunned by a six year old.

He got it. He really got it.

I knelt down, reopened my suitcase and there it was in the side pocket, carefully covered with socks stuffed over it. I cracked up. I had to hand it to him. He got the irony and the surprise down in under a week and he now gets humor. My humor. Adult level humor. However he is flexible to still use the “pants on fire” with his 4 year-old sister.

Upon reflection, I realized he figured out a concept like humor by relying on what I am going to call the research mind. He spent most of the week testing out different ideas of humor and noticing what got a laugh from adults. His open-minded approach led him to discover an authentic sense of humor. One that had both of us cracking up.

Most of us can learn a lesson from my six year-old – and from children everywhere. When we encounter something new, something that disrupts our process, we need to leave the database thinking in the dust. Instead, we need to step into our research mind and be open to all possible answers.

Of course, when I think about work, I think about Broadlook. The Broadlook tools offer an innovative alternative to our client’s usual process. Instead of going to a job board to find a candidate, or a business database to generate a lead, our tools take you directly to the largest source of information available anywhere – the Internet.

In order to fully utilize the software and get the best results possible, users have to transition to the research mindset to master them. While this is true of every new technology, Broadlook tools shift the paradigm in ways most software tools do not. For this reason, I have been a strong advocate of offering a training department for all of our clients to use as a resource. If you feel that your experience with the tools could be enhanced, then attend one of our many training classes. We even offer private lessons to show you how to maximize your investment.