We know kids are creative. Why don’t we hire them?

Mary Zalla

“Kids, and in my experience, especially boys, can weaponize anything”…

Mary Zalla works at Landor, as global president of consumer brands, and as managing director of their Cincinnati and Chicago offices.

I watched her talk at a recent event, where the highlight was her film of how kids experience a supermarket. This she produced by strapping go pros to her own kids heads. The results were part insightful, part hilarious.

‘Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.’ As Picasso said. We all know children have something magic in their unfiltered creativity, yet few hold top positions in agencies ( the long suffering PA’s of histrionic creative directors might beg to disagree.)

So as today is Americas National Take Your Son or Daughter to work day, Mary is the obvious person to ask the question ‘We know kids are creative. Why don’t we hire them?’

Kids are creative. Naturally. Effortlessly. Playfully.

There are many reasons for this. A big one is that kids have the distinct advantage (over adults) of not knowing what is not possible. They don’t know what they don’t know. When adults are ignorant about being ignorant, we call them idiots. When kids are like that, we call them creative.

Kids also increase their creativity quotient by thinking that everything is feasible. Barriers? Not to them. it’s like they have a magical super-power that at once renders them blind to obstacles, releases them from the laws of physics and leaves them blissfully unmoved by conventional wisdom. Smart.

Another reason kids are so creative is that they have not completed their educations. Because they are usually part of large centralized governments and therefore highly bureaucratic, most education systems, especially Western education systems are stuck in a time warp. We continue to educate kids in the same way we have for decades, even though western economies have changed so much and continue to be ultra-dynamic. Sir Ken Robinson, English educator, author, and speaker says “…we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out of it.” Too many adults have simply graduated and kids haven’t yet. Advantage – kids.

Kids are also more creative because they spend a heck of a lot less time sitting at desks than adults. Studies show that creative thinking improves while a person is walking, and continues shortly thereafter. Marily Oppezzo, a Stanford doctoral graduate and Daniel Schwartz, a professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education conducted the study and found that walking inside or out of doors both boosted creative inspiration. “The act of walking itself, and not the environment, was the main factor. Across the board, creativity levels were consistently and significantly higher for those walking compared to those sitting.” 1

Kids are also aided in their creativity because they have lower levels of stress. Do you know that stress can actually change the size of your brain? As in make it smaller? That’s right. Kids have the stress equation down. They don’t get stressed out, they send the stress out, to all the adults around them. Adults are on the wrong side, as in the receiving side of the equation. We seem automatically programmed to continuously take it all in.

So, just a few of the reasons why kids are so creative. So why don’t we hire them? Here are the Top 5 Reasons:

1 – They’d keep asking us why we still have desk phones. Why do we still have desk phones?

2 – They’d spill all the coffee. Kids are natural spillers. Then we adults would get stressed out, over the spills and the lack of coffee. Then our adult brains would shrink and we would lose even more of our dwindling creative capacities.

3 – Weaponization. That’s right. Kids, and in my experience, especially boys, can weaponize anything. I work at a design firm. Our office is full of exacto knives, scissors, paper trimmers, shredders and harmful aerosols. In the wrong hands, each of these things is a potential hazard. We adults would be trying to work and the kids would go all “Lord of the Flies” with our office supplies. Not pretty.

4 – Let’s face it. We don’t hire kids because most adults go to work to get away from their own kids, so they certainly don’t want to have to spend all day around someone else’s. No matter how creative they are.

5 – They’d see what we really do all day. A few years ago, my then 7-year-old son Elliot spent an afternoon at the office with me. When we got home that night his dad asked him how his day at work with his mom went, to which Elliot replied “Mom doesn’t work. All she does is talk on the phone all day.”

That counts as work.

It does.

See? Do you want to justify what it is you do all day? If not, then I suggest you resist the impulse to bring your kid to work, even on America’s National Bring your Son or Daughter to Work day, April 27th, 2017.

Don’t do it!

Mary Zalla, A Curate's Egg
Mary with her own kids. Disclaimer – annotation not provided by mum!

1. ^ – Stanford study finds walking improves creativity
By May Wong
April 24, 2014

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