Chris Read: Childlike thinking doesn’t have to be childish

As the country contemplates returning to the office, Dunstan Thomas' Chris Read suggests employing some childlike thinking to get the creative juices flowing, which he says, will pay off in the long-term

If dopamine could be bottled, I would have it in my tea. It’s very satisfying.

It’s your body rewarding you for positive experiences. Research has found there to be a link between dopamine and creativity.

Swimming in all that dopamine, truly creative people appear mentally unusual, even unhinged – prone to speaking in riddles and unaware of social norms.

Into Week seven of lockdown, as my social norms have dropped away, it’s time to roll up my sleeves and get creative.

So where to start? Being bored does not have to be boring. Being in lockdown does not have to be lonely.

I have my books, my records, my garden. I have a varied, broadminded and liberal bookshelf. Dare I say, I have inquisitive if not catholic tastes. For my sins, nearly half a century ago, I was schooled by Benedictines.

We all have varied and different stories of our times at school, some good, some bad. I suspect for many these formative years continues to influence and leave its stamp.

Who was your favourite monk at school?

Ask most people to name a teacher that still inspires and influences them, and you will get a name or two. Mine was a Welsh monk called Dom Daniel.

I had him for Medieval History and Religious Studies. That is two separate subjects, although the interaction and interplay between both is obvious.

He was a great fan of the Saul of Tarsus, Paul the Apostle, Saint Paul. Paul lived in the First Century BCE in what is Turkey and Syria today. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul spoke about being childlike. In the letter, he talks about being a child, how he used a child’s language, had a child’s feelings and thoughts.

This is a good enough place to start to be creative. So, to be creative we must use the imagination to bring original ideas together to create things of value. Clearly something of great use in any business.

In 1968, George Land conducted research to test creativity in children and adults. Using a test devised by NASA (used to select innovative engineers), he found that the tests on children aged five had a 98% creativity rating, children aged 10 years had a creativity rating of 30% and by the time the child had become an adult, the creativity rating had fallen to just 2%.

Clearly the school years and the norms of modern western society that these children went through beat the creativity out of them almost entirely.

A decade earlier in 1956, Louis Mobley at IBM noted that the success of IBM was to be built upon the creativity of its leadership team.

He developed six insights that were used to build the IBM Executive School:

1 – Traditional teaching methods are next to useless as creativity was driven through non-linear approaches to learning and questioning

2 – Creativity is an unlearning process – where is that dopamine again.

3 – You can’t learn to be creative; you have to become creative.

4 – Fastest way to become creative is to be with other creative people.

5 – Creativity is highly-correlated with awareness and self-knowledge.

6 – It’s OK to be wrong and to look foolish. There are no bad ideas, just better ideas.

Time perhaps, when we are ‘unlocked’ and return to our workplaces to invite some seven-year-olds into our board rooms.

Perhaps they could help solve some of our business challenges, subject of course to social distancing, plenty of soap and water and squeaky-clean hands.

Chris Read is group CEO at Dunstan Thomas