Daily Archives: January 16, 2009

What You Can Learn from Children About Teamwork



ChildrenPlay Have you ever watched a group of children in a classroom or group environment? It’s fascinating to see how they work together, how they learn, and how they get along. Observe a group of kids for a few hours, and chances are, you’ll learn a lot.




My mom is a pre-school teacher, and I admire her patience and enthusiasm. I don’t know how she does it sometimes. But then I think about what work is to her and what it is to me, and though I know what she does is a lot of hard work, there are parts of it that sound like a blast. Coloring. Recess. Circle time. What’s not to love?


Really, there are a lot of things we can learn from children that can help us in our jobs. After all, why shouldn’t we all get to have a little more fun on the clock?


Play together.





One of the best parts of being a kid is play time. But there’s no reason we should leave play behind when we enter the workforce. In fact, many psychologists say that play is an integral part of learning and personal development – throughout a lifetime. Americans have a hard enough time leaving work out of leisure time, and experts say we’re overworked and don’t take enough vacation anyway.


Why shouldn’t we play more at work? The other day, our department got together to play. We made what could have been a boring brainstorming meeting into a fun, interactive game. Sure, it was work. But it was fun, too. Plus, we got great ideas and grew as a team. What could be better than that? But play at work doesn’t always have to be productive. Sometimes it’s important to play purely for the sake of having fun. The rejuvenating power of play is tremendous. So, figure out productive (or just plain fun) ways your team can play while you work.


Make the box work for you.


Have you ever seen children play together with a cardboard box? The possibilities they see in such a mundane object are endless. It’s a shame it becomes so much more difficult to harness this creativity as we grow up and go to work. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We should do what kids do when they play with a box. They don’t see it for what it is: a large piece of cardboard folded into the shape of – a box. They see what it could be. A space ship. A tunnel. A house.




They could see a box a hundred times and it might be something new every time. What would happen if your work team really got in touch with this idea? Would they see problems in a new light? Would they seek opportunities instead of distractions? What could your projects be, if your team used this kind of creativity, if they were willing to make old things new?


Tell stories.


Kids tell stories. All the time. Some are true, most are at least partly fiction, but all are a lesson in creativity and the possibility of the mind.





Once upon a time… on Vimeo.


One thing that intrigues me about the stories children tell is the connections they make and the questions they ask. Especially when they tell stories in a group. They don’t limit their world to the constraints we adults have a hard time getting past (especially at work).


Animals can talk. People can fly. But their stories are still rooted in the world they know. This is a powerful lesson adults need to bring with us to work: Reality can meet possibility. Stories we think we already know can be reshaped. But we have to let our minds go there first. If your team tried to tell a story about their tasks, their projects, their goals, what would they say? What if the story came first? What if you created a vision together?


Would your work improve, would your team grow stronger, would your company grow?


What else can we learn from children about teamwork?




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