Childhood. That wondrous time of our lives when everything imaginable became real inside our own heads. Whenever I see organisations that are stiff, stagnant and ungratifying to work in, my mind escapes with nostalgia to the far-removed image of those happy moments from long ago, although for some of us it is farther in the past than we'd like.
Full of wide-eyed curiosity, a child's life is pure pleasure as they immerse themselves in the simplest of experiences. This is in part thanks to their willingness to play with practically anybody who will join in, whilst making up new games and mechanisms of connecting with others as they go along. This phase of life is further characterised by the ongoing discovery of new sensations and emotions, a total devotion to achieving wants and desires, and of course, that exasperating vitality which keeps parents run off their feet. These natural attributes were part of our everyday lives as children. What we didn't do, though, was to learn them at fancy workshops on creativity, idea generation, innovation, team work, entrepreneurship, or what have you!
In stark contrast to this vital developmental phase, however, that innate freshness of 'crazy kids' is categorically knocked on the head in most organisations. As a result, the notion of 'reinvention', something which is so desperately needed in our society and the traditionally competitive environment of today, is substantially curtailed. How are we to build strong and innovative organisations which are enterprising, creative, attractive and dynamic if standard management practice systematically erases these behaviours off the map?
With very close parallels between them, a new business venture is not unlike childhood: It is one long learning curve; entrepreneurs face the unknown with unbridled passion and curiosity; they contribute freshness of imagination and experimentation. Furthermore, they are more proactive when taking risks, but also more accepting of mistakes. Most importantly though, they just have plain, unabashed fun at work.
Sadly, however, if what I am saying is true, then why is it that the dynamic found in developing organisations takes such a radically divergent path? Why do so many organisations today lack freshness, idealism, imagination, creativity, and even joy?
If as a country we want to play a key role in the new economic world order, our companies, associations, political parties, trade unions, universities and arbitration organisations must evolve their management practice towards creativity, innovation and the creation of new areas of value added. And we certainly need new ideas for products and services as mechanisms of sustainable development.
However, none of this will be possible as long as we are unable to go back to being 'crazy kids' who passionately have fun while creating value in the company. 'Crazy kids' are passionate in the pursuit of goals, and they bring freshness and curiosity to daily work. Valuing emotion as much as they value knowledge, they methodically and enthusiastically explore chance, and all their energy and vitality become contagious to the players they come in contact with.
In continuing to improve competitiveness in our organisations, and ensuring a job well-done, we appeal to a child-like spirit in order to develop and build more human-based organisations. I, for one, never want to stop being a 'crazy kid' who has fun at work.
*Originally published in El Economista, 10/12/2012