Thinking outside the box: Checkers with 5-year olds
My daughter, who's 5 years old as I type, got a Disney Princess checkers set recently and was very excited about learning how to play. We set up the board with its non-traditional pink and purple color scheme and I explained the rules as we went. Now normally, I would try to lose an early game encounter like this. At most of her other games (Clue Jr. and Angelina Ballerina's Big Performance Game being her favorites), she can beat me pretty soundly after she figures out the basic rules, but checkers was a step up in complexity for her.
So we went through moving the pieces around and I eventually jumped her last piece. I didn't immediately explain that meant the game was over but waited for her to make that deduction. She stared at the board very carefully with furrowed brow and I finally said, "You don't have any more pieces to move." To this, she simply replied, "Can I move one of yours?"
This insight struck me as a classic case of outside the box thinking (then again, she's related to someone who invented concussion grenade fishing). Not completely clear on the rules of checkers, my daughter considered options outside the parameters of the typical restrictions the game presents. This doesn't necessarily make her a genius (although I'm biased and would argue she's pretty bright), but it demonstrates a gift we all have as children that we lose later in life. Kids don't know what all the rules of society or physics or chemistry or whatever are, so they are able to use their imagination to propose solutions to problems that an adult would never come up with. Adults are used to conforming to a set of boundaries we have established for ourselves and we tend to not think outside those boxes we've grown into.
The next time you have a challenging problem to solve, ask yourself what would happen if you moved somebody else's pieces. Think of the most absurd solution that removes all restrictions. It may not be reasonable to implement, but it can lead you to consider options that you wouldn't have thought of when thinking about the situation within a predefined set of rules.
How many restraints are there? List them.
Which ones can be removed with some effort? With a lot of effort?
An hour thinking like a 5-year old may yield possibilities that would never come about otherwise.
Labels: General stuff