How a little girl solved problems
I can never forget how one little girl solved problems that adults could not solve.
The Milk Story
The little girl was 6 or 7 years old when an interesting incident occurred. She was studying in a school several kilometers away from home. So, she had to travel to school on the school bus.
She was travel-sick, so she would not drink milk before she left for school. As a result, she would be on an empty stomach till her first break. Which was a good three hours into the day.
Her parents and her grandmother had tried various ways to solve this issue. No medicine – allopathic, ayurvedic or homeopathic – work. The grandmother was upset, and the parents were frustrated.
One day the little girl cracked the problem. She took milk in her water bottle. Drank the milk as soon as she got down from the bus, washed the water bottle and filled that with water from the aquaguard.
Find the cook story
There was a family function at the little girl’s home. There were several guests. Her mother had employed a cook for the occasion. As it happened he had accepted another assignment in a nearby building.
So, he was running around between the two flats.
At one stage her mother asked her to go and fetch the cook from the other flat where he had an assignment.
She agreed to do that and was ready to run to the other flat. Her father was quite curious about how she would find the cook. As she was about to leave he asked her
“Do you know the flat number?”
“Then how will you find the cook?”
“I will look for a flat with lots of chappals outside the door.” So, saying she ran.
And she was back with the cook in ten minutes.
The father was quite curious. What was the connection between the chappals and the cook?
“Tell me, why did you think of looking for a flat with lots of chappals outside the door?”
“Look at our flat Dad. We have so many chappals outside. This means lots of people. Amma got the cook for help because we have so many guests.”
“So, if there are lots of chappals outside the flat there must be lots of guests. If there are lots of guests, the cook could be there.”
I share these stories in many of my workshops. They illustrate three things.
1. Thinking outside the box comes naturally to children because they are not limited by preconceived notions or assumptions.
2. Fresh minds make unusual connections
3. If the environment is psychologically safe people will make such connections and might try unexplored ideas.
If you are an ambitious leader looking for new ideas from your people, the first thing you need to do is to make the environment psychologically safe. Make it safe for people to think of different ways. Let them explore possibilities however crazy or impractical it might seem.
Only then will you get ideas that your competitors may not have thought of.
Self-disclosure: The little girl is our daughter. Now the mother three kids.