Ideas In The Backyard

“The first rule of intelligent tinkering is to save all of the parts.”  -Paul R. Ehrlich

As a kid, two favorite places for our imagination to explore and run wild for building and making, were the garage our backyard.  It was the place of limitless possibilities.  We could easily spend hours upon hours immersed in creating and constructing our own world.

And while the garage was all about tools, parts, wagons, bikes, go-carts, and trying to discover new and innovative ways for us to break the land speed record, the backyard was all about forts.  From western outposts to medieval castles, we loved to create and build fortresses and strongholds out of any available materials that we could lay our hands on.

So we would team up and go out on gathering missions, collecting all that we could.  Wood. Cardboard.  Sticks.  Old Signs.  Whatever materials that we could lay our hands on that would be viable to creating these grand structures.  We would bring it all together and lay it in a pile in the middle of the backyard.

There were no comments or complaints, “Why did you get that?”  “We can’t build with that.”  “That won’t work.

Everything was on the table, or the yard, I should say.  And we used whatever we could, and what was left-over, wasn’t thrown away, it was put aside in case it was needed at a different time, on a different day.

It was a great time, filled with passion and joy.  And the funny thing, we have a tendency to lose this positive approach (passion and joy) towards tinkering and making as we grow older.  The door to our openness seems to slowly slam shut.

We become more abrasive, less embracive, and we engage with a much more critical eye.

Which may be one of the reasons that our people and our organizations have a less than open attitude towards sharing, towards more creative and innovative approaches to the problems that we face and challenge us.

It is not that we don’t have the ideas, rather it is often how those ideas are treated when they are shared.  People don’t lack creativity, they lack the willingness to put themselves out there with that creativity.  Which all stems from the culture and environment that we create in our organization.

Especially, when we lose that child-like zeal for seeing possibilities, rather than more obstacles…

And until we change that culture, that environment, the outburst of ideas, the sharing of creative thinking, and the best innovations will fail to come forth, to be realized.  They will continue to remain hidden and concealed, often with people who are bursting at the seams to share and contribute.

To make a difference…

Our organizational environments and cultures need to be more like that backyard where we created as kids, where everyone went on the scavenger hunt to gather all that they could.  Where it was fun to sift through the pile to determine what was useable for that day.

Either you could use the materials or not.  It was neither good nor bad, just useful or not.

The same attitude needs to be applied to ideas and thinking in our organizations.  We need to allow people a safe place to bring all of their ideas to the table (or backyard).  A place to pile them all up and allow everyone to work together to sort out what they can use, and what needs to be saved for another day, another project.

And when we create that environment, that culture, towards our thinking and ideas, creativity and innovation will have no other choice than to flourish and grow.


1 thought on “Ideas In The Backyard

  1. David, I was just thinking about this the other day: how in our elementary years we are highly creative, become narrow minded in our focus, then struggle to find it again when we need it in college and life. We need to focus and fix the middle, become less task-oriented and more project-based, which is reflective of the way life works. Just my two cents.

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