A Kinder Garden for Better Thinking

I've been doing a lot of reading on the power of play and the positive role it plays in learning, strategy development, creativity, and innovation.

Doing so caused me to do a little research on the word kindergarten. German in origin, it literally means children (kinder) and garden (garten). Friedrich Froebel, the German educator who coined the term, created in 1840 a Play and Activity Institute. He renamed it kindergarten two years later, envisioning the kindergarten educational experience as a garden for children where they could grow and develop, as well as interact with real gardens and nature.

I like the origin of the word and think the garden metaphor is ripe with opportunities for talking about how ideas are planted, nurtured, and harvested in an organization.

But what has most stayed with me is seeing the word split into its two roots: kinder and garden. While the Germanic meaning of kinder is clearly children, seeing the word for its other meaning—being more kind—also holds great relevance for the power of play.

We will only produce breakthrough thinking and innovative solutions if we treat our colleagues, stakeholders, and thinking partners with greater kindness and respect and increase our willingness to play and think with just about anyone instead of the usual suspects or the proven partners whom we may now favor.