For years, we’ve worked with grown ups on business teams to discover insight, generate ideas that solve against the opportunities made evident by those insights and then develop those ideas into big initiatives. We’re pretty good at it. And, it’s a fairly sequential process that starts with insights and leads to ideas. Our work with Generation Z turns this thinking inside out.
Here’s a bit about what we’ve learned:
1. Kids are fast, literal, imaginative and hungry to learn. This generation of kids is known for being practical, yet savvy problem solvers, eager to learn and work in teams, and focused on meeting goals for the sheer joy of the accomplishment.
2. Kids are amazing, agile, associative thinkers. Associative thinking is a skill we teach adults to enable them to come up with ideas. Kids do this naturally. Give them analogs and they take off running with imaginative ways to apply what they see to a hundred different new ideas.
3. Kids are fearless. Especially when they are creating without mom or dad or teacher watching, and when they have the power of a few other kids around them. They prototype without concern about whether “it will work out” or not. And, they share ideas freely and readily. This makes kids tremendous entrepreneurs. But, how can we learn from kids about a specific challenge?
A few more tips and ideas:
1. Create a connection early. The kids we work with generally don’t know each other. So, we help them establish a connection early on. Grouping kids of similar ages and boys with boys; girls with girls helps drive this connection among middle school kids. A mix of individual and team activities keeps the connection going.
2. Educate a little, empower a lot. Kids this age are eager to learn, but they don’t want or need to be lectured. They learn by doing. So, we teach through the instructions we’re giving for an activity and keep it to 5 minutes or less. Empowering means giving them a task and just enough structure (like a simple template or labeled posterboard) to get them started. Typically, we give each team of 4-5 kids a grown-up “coach,” whose role is to affirm, encourage and spur thinking.
3. Focus on ideas, and insights will emerge. Kids naturally create big ideas that are meant to solve some kind of challenge or problem or address an opportunity. So, if you really want insights, let kids create ideas. Then ask them to tell you about their idea and why people will love it. We often ask:
Their answers will illuminate all kinds of new insights. For example, we once asked kids to create the ideal playground. They created trampolines, zip lines, and zero entry pools that all fed into each other! The insights here? I want adventure and I want all of my activities to seamlessly integrate with each other.
Learning and creating with kids is fun, can be educational, and is especially appropriate for certain categories and industries; much less so for others. And, there are plenty of watch-outs and things to consider to keep kids safe and to make sure that they are learning in the process.
Photo credit: Drive Media House
The Garage Group helps corporate teams innovate and grow like startups via smart and iterative approaches to research, idea generation and development.