It's time to embrace your inner child - in more ways than one

19 December 2017 -

Childs PlayOne of Britain’s top entrepreneurs says that the key to professional success is embracing the thoughts and feelings of childhood

Paul Lindley

“The red one. Red like my fire engine.” These eight words, from a child aged just four, helped to shape a household brand.

The child was my son Patrick and the brand was Ella’s Kitchen, the baby- and toddler-food company I founded in 2006. The setting was our kitchen table, and I was surrounded by four young children and bowls of fruit smoothies: the first Ella’s Kitchen focus group. I asked: “Which one is best?” Paddy pointed at the strawberry, raspberry, apple and banana mix and said those eight words.

‘The Red One’ became our first product, effectively launched our brand and remains one of our bestsellers. It’s our icon.

Moments of inspiration like Paddy’s aren’t the exception, but the rule. Toddlers see the world differently, act on their instincts and pursue their goals with rigour and determination.

Helping our colleagues to think and act in more childlike ways is one of the core values underpinning success in business. In the same way we needed to grow up as children, we need to grow down as adults.

9 steps to growing down

Be confident

As adults, we agonise over difficult decisions. For toddlers, the world is a place of clarity and simplicity. Theirs is a confident, uninhibited and decisive perspective.

Be creative

Toddlers are life’s great experimenters. They defy convention, as they don’t know it exists. And, often, by doing things differently, they achieve something the rules couldn’t have led them to do.

Dive right in

For many toddlers, there is no self-doubt when they want to do something. They hurl themselves at it.

Their ambition is often uncorrupted by fear of failure: they fail fast and learn from what they do wrong.

Never give up

Toddlers are selfish about picking and pursuing their goals – they don’t give up learning to walk just because they fall over. A bit of that same selfishness, in moderation and at the right times, is needed to succeed.

Get noticed

Toddlers are life’s natural performers. They communicate by all and any means necessary. They quickly learn which strategy works with whom, and how to pick and choose their method for the occasion.

Be honest

In trying to spare someone’s feelings, adults can shroud what they are trying to say. Confusion and mistrust are generally the result. Toddlers don’t worry: they say exactly what is on their mind.

Show your feelings

There is never any question about whether a toddler is happy, upset, tired or bored. As we grow up, we become less willing to show strong emotions. The risk is we lose the ability to show people that we care.

Have fun

For toddlers, everything is an adventure, from a trip to the park to a new toy to play with or a new person to meet. They explore the world through imagination and play. If it’s not fun, they won’t do it.

Involve others

Toddlers are fascinated by the world. Most instinctively want to interact with others; they are naturally open and trusting. Their ability to make friends matches that of professional networkers.

Paul Lindley is author of Little Wins: The Huge Power of Thinking Like a Toddler (Penguin Books, £9.99)

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