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Baby in the Boardroom


By Tamara Nolte – Lead Facilitator

Let’s say for just one day your three-year-old self went to work, and gave your adult self a needed break. And let’s just say, for jokes and giggles, that your boss and your employees and everyone around didn’t bat an eye. This was a COMPLETELY NORMAL day because they were also three-year-olds.

Do you have this picture in your head? Your little legs are dangling off your chair, your colleague is shuffling by in a suit custom fit for a small child, and within the first ten minutes of the day, the entire office floor has become trashed with office paraphernalia and the sneakers of the kid at the end of the hall who insists on going barefoot.

For this magical day, you only have to use the resources a three-year-old would have to exist. These are the skills we first learn in our preschool lives and also the skills that we need most in our adult working life to find success.

In this return to childhood, we re-engage with some of the fundamentals of our human nature that make us able to connect with others, collaborate and innovate.

To build takes the willingness to try something you are unsure of will work.

  • Kindness

The first exchange of the day is with Andy. Andy is a big kid, still three but big for his age and seems to monopolize a lot of pens, paper, highlighters and other key office resources for a preschooler.  Andy doesn’t care that other children want to have access to these resources, and when they try to get access, he uses brute force to keep them away.  As a three-year-old, you will learn fairly quickly that trying to use muscle against Andy isn’t going to work out for anything other than quick and real physical pain.

So what does three-year-old you do?  Maybe you cry a little, you probably search for some sign of an adult to help you- which of course, is nowhere around, and maybe you even try to sneakily sit closer and closer to Andy hoping he will get bored and move on. In enough time you’ll likely find that the most successful attempt will be to figure out how to befriend Andy to get the pens and highlighters. You ask kindly, you offer to trade him the box of paper clips you found, and then you begin work on building a relationship with Andy slowly so that you get to play along side of him. And maybe along the way you come to realize that Andy is a kid just like you, figuring out the world around him, even though he is seemingly older or more physically capable.

  • Play

Now three-year-old you is tasked with filling up the rest of the day. Somehow the schedule of meetings adult-you would have dreaded become the only respite from the strange aloneness 3-year-old you feels being trapped away in the office.

Don’t get me wrong; office-time has its joys of rooting through the trashcan and flipping through books that freakishly HAVE NO PICTURES. But in time, you miss the people you have attachments too –Fiona, who lives on your street and reminds you of home, that kid down the hall that refuses to wear shoes but has some amazing snacks, and your new friend/foe Andy who you’re still trying to figure out.

Without them, the day would be a whole lot scarier and most definitely less fun. Together, you, snack-kid-with-no-shoes, Fiona, and Andy can figure out how to entertain yourselves with a self-organized game of Office Red Light Green Light which strangely harkens back to an assignment adult-you had that never seemed to get finished and always had you back starting at square one.

The only way to be sure of it is to test and see if it will stand– testing the potential of cause and effect.

  • Experiment

It’s with this crew that you’re able to tackle the remaining challenges of the day. Unless you were a young Doogie Howser, you aren’t going to be able to tackle most of the reading assignments adult-you would have needed to complete. Instead, you find yourself completing the more compelling tasks for your skill level.  Building things, making things, and eating things. To build takes the willingness to try something you are unsure of will work. The only way to be sure of it is to test and see if it will stand– testing the potential of cause and effect. To make things takes the ability not to care what the other kids think of the end product – drawing with those highlighters until they run dry. And, what happens at lunch? If you don’t work at Google with one of those never ending cafeterias (If you do, call me, I’d love to do lunch), your crew and you will need to pool together your leftover resources from the communal fridge. You’ll have to figure out how to open up the packaging on your own, and you’ll have to test to see if you want to eat whatever you can find.

All of this takes examination and experimentation, the practice that makes all humans innately human and able to grow as a species. It’s through this day of testing to learn and taking risks without fear of judgment that you start to realize that adult-you rarely behaves with this kind of freedom. Yet, it’s exactly this kind of test and see, play mindset that could actually make the day not only enjoyable but also productive and innovative.

All of this takes examination and experimentation, the practice that makes all humans innately human and able to grow as a species.

I write this allegory to comment on what I see when I enter into your organization and challenge you to return to your childhood. I hope it reminds you not to forget the skills you learned in preschool: be kind for it will lead you to a stronger relationship and team, don’t forget to play for it leads to better, more joyous collaboration, and finally experiment and take risks for it will lead to innovation. Now grab yourself a juice box, and have a great day! See you at the snack table. *

* No children were harmed in the writing of this blog.

About the Author:

Tamara Nolte is an educational content leader based in Brooklyn, NY. For Second City Works, she designs and leads learning programs for Fortune 500 clients. She also serves as the Director of Education for Kidville, an early childhood franchise company. Tamara has her MBA from Kellogg School of Management and will take any opportunity to direct you to her website for more information.

Become others-focused to see another POV,  Build real connections with empathy,  learning and development


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