Lifelong Kindergarten

Peeking into a typical kindergarten classroom, you’ll see a vibrant setting of creativity and collaboration. The colorful setting is messy, playful, and expressive as students smile with delight and their imaginations run free.

Unfortunately, the creative wonder we experience as small children often declines in each subsequent year as we confront the world’s difficulties. It’s been said that we begin school with a colorful set of crayons, but we graduate with a single, blue ballpoint pen.

Ironically, it is the creative problem solving, collaboration, and unbridled imagination of kindergarten that create the most success in business and life. Conversely, rigid and fear-based approaches seldom yield the results we seek. Especially in these fast-moving and competitive times, human creativity is one of the most powerful – and often underutilized – resources at our disposal.

MIT professor and author Mitchel Resnick runs a program called Lifelong Kindergarten to combat the typical, restrictive forces in our society. His premise is that the core principles of kindergarten – projects, passion, peers, and play – are the components that yield profound inventions and solve our most pressing challenges.

We already see the crushing impact that most corporate cultures have on creativity. Leaders hire talented people for their imagination and judgment, yet seldom allow those skills to surface in daily work. Simply put, beige cubes, restrictive policies, and fear-based cultures inhibit sustainable success.

Instead, what if we embraced Resnick’s philosophy of Lifelong Kindergarten? Encouraging all ideas, even the whacky ones. Solving complex problems in unorthodox ways. Fostering a safe environment of experimentation and collaboration.

In our turbulent business times, we won’t find predictable growth by sitting politely at our desks, and filling out forms with a Number 2 pencil. As a modern alternative, let’s foster Resnick’s 4 P’s – Project-based work and learning; cultivating Passion for the work; collaborative co-creation with diverse Peers; and using Play to discover breakthroughs.

If we want to win at the highest levels, we must ditch the military-school vibe of Corporate America and shift to the creative wonder we enjoyed as young learners. If we want to enjoy lifelong prosperity, let’s embrace Resnick’s notion of Lifelong Kindergarten, and play (not work) our way to success.

Your colorful crayons are calling.