July 20, 2009

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.

3 comments:

Lisa Junker said...

Thank you so much for this post, Jeffrey. The older I get, the more I become convinced that the world can use more kindness every single day ... the working/professional world being no exception.

Jennifer Cross said...

What a timely post! I am in the process of facilitating 2 staff retreats for a client this month and my theme for both has been centered on play and leadership lessons from children. I have found that there is a lot of stress, anxiety and insecurity in the workplace these days and that leads to some very unhealthy work patterns. Getting staff units to play together reminds them of what they enjoyed about their jobs and colleagues prior to the layoffs and downsizing. Helping them find the joy again leads to the kindness you referred to. Great post - thank you!

klyoho said...

This reminds me of the "rules" of the New Games movement in the 70s . . .
play hard
play fair
nobody gets hurt

Wise advice for all of us!

Karen