Why Thinking Like A Child Matters In Business And IT

By September 8, 2014Strategy

They say that youth is wasted on the young. Children often have the luxury of acting without thinking, doing and then failing, and then just getting back up again with little more cost than a scraped knee and a bruised ego.

When I become old enough to drive, I would explore every road I could. I would embark far out into unknown country back roads, not knowing or caring much if my old pickup truck would break down or I would run out of gas, both of which happened so often that I became practiced at parking on hills so that I could roll-start the engine or coast to a gas station easily. Tools and tow ropes were my friends in a world where teenagers didn’t really have cell phones.

There’s something to be said for that same spirit and childish attitude in the adult world of business and IT: exploring new technology could be the road to success in a time of fierce competition and the 100 mile-per-hour pace of technology today. We can barely keep up.

The problem, though, is not just having time. It’s risk. If sticking your neck out is the road to advancement, and the key to unlock your Porsche is the execution of an important project, then preparation is the airbag that will save you when a car pops out of nowhere.

Mark Horstman from Manager-Tools once said:

Managers should not try to reduce risk in business because risk is constant and cannot be reduced. Instead, we can educate ourselves to better understand, quantify, and prepare for risk so that we can make higher quality decisions to achieve the best possible outcome, while at the same time choosing a path or solution that has the best risk/reward outcome.

In other words, take the “no pain, no gain” concept and factor in what happens if you push too far, get really hurt, and have a major setback. What’s the sweet spot of pushing hard but not too far? The answer may lie in the insights of the Marshmallow Challenge, which talks of executives and kindergartners.

In business and IT, we need to take chances on newer technology, because it’s the only way to advance forward.

But as adults in positions of power, our failures can affect hundreds or thousands of people’s lives. So preparation is the key to a successful road trip. Having a plan B isn’t enough when Murphy’s Law is at hand. Have three or fourth backup plans. Before departing, check the oil and the air in the tires, especially the spare. Have an emergency kit with food, water, a knife, a map, and duct tape. It costs like twenty bucks. Save the phone number to AAA towing.

Research and planning are necessary in any endeavor, but so is talking with others who have traveled the same roads or destinations. And for God’s sake, have fun. My most rewarding vacations included experts who knew how to rock-climb at Joshua Tree, landed a helicopter on the top of Hawaii waterfall, or negotiated through a class 5 rapid in West Virginia. So use an IT partner who knows the ropes and have done this before.

One last question: where do we want to go?

Photo credits via Flickr: Seema Krishnakumar