Should you "unleash your inner child" at work?

Playful attitudes and unfiltered conversation have their upsides, argues Rupert Pick.

by Adam Gale
Last Updated: 05 Jun 2019

There’s a reason that, when something’s important, we describe it as ‘serious business’. The world of business (as distinct from the world of work, which obviously includes teaching, nurseries and the like), is a particularly unchildlike place. It’s hardly a playground game: it’s hard edged with big consequences, and people are expected to be professional.

Tantrums, throwing toys out of the pram and long naps are definitely out, and for good reason. But maybe we’ve become just a little too grown-up, overcomplicating straightforward things and stifling our imaginations, to the detriment of our businesses, as Rupert Pick, co-founder of experiential creative agency Hot Pickle, argues.

"As the father of three young and boisterous kids, I frequently spot parallels between the challenge of parenting and managing a growing, mid-sized business. Kids are wonderful problem solvers. Uninhibited thinkers, they often see possibility where we are so often guilty of seeing problems. They try stuff because they’re unbridled by insecurities and the fear of failure.

"When we're faced with developing ideas for our clients we try to draw upon our childlike tendencies - we think in fantastical terms, we lark around. We take the work seriously but not ourselves. 'Being' a child helps us to draw on a reserve of ideas that perhaps the sensible adult attitude wouldn't be able to reach.

"A charming lack of filter also turns children into efficient communicators. If they don’t like something they’ll tell you. It takes me back to my days at Unilever: I wanted to introduce a premium pasta sauce for two but the business wasn’t convinced. So I channelled my angsty child and used my 20-minute slot with the board to make a pasta sauce from scratch – demonstrating the time involved and the need for a new product for time-poor professionals.

"We gained approval [i.e. financial backing] to launch the product when previously there hadn't been the appetite. By making the consumer need ‘real' to the board, they were able to relate to the situation and in turn see the commercial opportunity. Something a set of abstract PowerPoint charts would have struggled to convey.

"Finally, kids understand the innate power of perseverance: if they want something, they won’t let up and they’ll negotiate like hell. Well, doggedness and persistence are mandatory for small businesses. For our first two years we really struggled to sell the idea of a revenue-generating brand experience. There was lots of talk but no one said yes.

"It wasn't until we delivered the Magnum Pleasure Store concept that other brands were willing to buy our services. Like a small child, you’ve got to see opportunities instead of problems, and always be open to new ideas."  

Rupert Pick is co-founder of Hot Pickle & Work for Good

Image credit: snapwire/Pexels


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