Are you smarter than a 4-year-old?

Researchers asked 4-year-olds to do a puzzle. After they succeeded they asked them to choose: either do the same puzzle again or try a harder one. Even at the age of 4, several kids decided to go for the safer option for success and repeated the first puzzle.

While you would think that you would most definitely have choosen the harder puzzle, let’s take this game into today‘s reality.

What tasks do you pick at work? How often do you face a new problem? And how often do you opt in for a new way of solving the problem instead of repeating successful ways of the past?

When it is all about getting a good remark from your boss, repeating successful patterns makes somewhat sense. The good remark results in a good reputation which eventually leads to a promotion. So your single career path is secured – at least as long as repeating common patterns is needed in your company.

But lets look into the future: If you get promoted up the ranks with that behavior, the whole company is at risk once the market changes. Nokia, Grundig and Chrysler are just some examples what happens if you only have people who repeat what has been successful in the past. When innovation through new ideas is eliminated, your company has no chance of surviving well.

What does that mean for you today?

(1) Challenge yourself to find new ways of solving problems

Finding new ways includes failure. If you feel uncomfortable in failing, it is worthwhile spending some reflection time on this topic. Innovation – and therefore market relevance in the longterm – is only possible through failure. Therefore, make some time to find out what failure means to you and whether your current definition of failure is supporting your longterm success (which includes innovation) or rather leading you to a repetition marionette.

(2) Give your teammembers freedom to bring in new ways of thinking

Independent on how you handle failure and trying new ways for yourself, learn to give freedom to your (young) teammembers. Teach them your way of working – with the comment that they need to figure out whether they want to make it their way of working.

For sure, when they support your tasks, you can set the rules of collaboration. But make sure that there is some space for new ideas that might lead to innovation. Ask your young team members how they would solve the problem. Make time to listen to them. Maybe there is some innovation, you can support.

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