Develop a Child’s Mind: Pathway to Creativity

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities.  In the expert’s mind, there are few.” ~Shunryu Suzuki

When I train entrepreneurs and business executives in the process of Appreciative Inquiry , I teach them to develop a “child’s mind,” a way of looking at the world that is different from how we have come to see it as adults.  For many, this is not easy to do, but I am convinced that it is an essential pathway to creativity and innovation.

My niece, Kelsey Herrington seeing the world through a child’s mind

My niece, Kelsey Herrington

Think of a child, perhaps a 4 year old and how she approaches the world.   What do you notice about her?  Probably that she is endlessly curious.  She asks lots of questions.  She wants to know things, well, just because.  And she is genuinely interested in the answers that she gets.  She makes novel connections that make you chuckle.  She is incredibly attentive.  She notices the smallest detail and it captures her imagination.  She takes time to pay attention.

When my niece, Kelsey, was about that age, my mother gave her a magnifying glass.  Out on a walk together, my mother urged Kelsey to catch up.  Kelsey’s response to my mother, “But I’m looking!”  What had caught her attention and was the object of such rapt appreciation?  An ordinary little bug, transformed under magnification and worthy of study.

Remember Kelsey when you are approaching your next project: slow down, look carefully and appreciatively, be childishly curious.  You may be surprised what you find!

Here are some questions to ask to help you work on a new project with the mind of a child:

1. What enhancement or simplification to your idea would please a child?

2. What would a child’s version of your product or service look like?

3. What would you see if you looked through a magnifying glass?

4.  What are you curious about?

Do you have an experience of how a child’s mind helped you move forward on something in a creative, innovative way?  I would love to hear about it!



Dr. Lynn K. Jones
Certified Personal and Executive Coach


  1. Linda Menesez on May 29, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    Wonderful post, Lynn! Children are fascinated by everything, even the simplest of things become magical under their gaze. They live in a very mindful way, which we would benefit from incorporating into our lives as adults. I love what your niece said! Looking is indeed important!!

    Your clients are very lucky to have you teach them Appreciative Inquiry. It sounds very empowering!

    Thanks for helping us see exciting possibilities,


  2. lynnkjones on May 29, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    Linda, I love what you said, “even the simplest of things becomes magical under their gaze.” And you are right that the potential is empowering: just by looking differently we create magic. Thank you for making that connection in such a lovely way!

  3. Glynne Gervais on May 29, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    Our organization used the appreciative design process when we did an agency strategic plan. Your description of what A I is is wonderful. You brought in all the salient aspects in a manner that is so clear and creative.

    • lynnkjones on May 29, 2011 at 10:22 pm

      Thanks, Glynne. Appreciative Inquiry is a wonderful process for Strategic Planning. I am thrilled that you got to experience it first hand. Thanks for commenting on my blog!

  4. Mystery novelist on May 29, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    Thinking about your blog, it occurred to me that virtually all of today’s innovators — Gates, Zuckerberg et al.– were youngsters when they created their game-changing ventures. Perhaps they were still close to the child within.

    • lynnkjones on May 29, 2011 at 10:42 pm

      It is a really interesting observation. There are also cases of some founders who take back the leadership helm when their companies have strayed away from the more creative ways of their youthful founders. Recently this has happened with Larry Page at Google and it happened with Steve Jobs at Apple in the past. These guys seem to intuitively know that channeling the inner child is the key to success.

      • patricia on May 29, 2011 at 10:46 pm

        This is a really cool company which hires ALL sorts of people to channel the most of creativity. The name of the company is IDEO.

        • Alejandra O. on May 30, 2011 at 12:28 am

          Hi Patricia. I enjoyed this youtube video. I liked what Dave said, “The point is that we are actually not experts at any given area. we are experts on the process of designing stuff.”

          • patricia on May 30, 2011 at 1:42 am

            yeah! it’s a very cool video. glad you liked it. that was a great quote…and if they DIDN’T think like children…w/o bounds…then their business would be in big trouble.

  5. Alejandra O. on May 30, 2011 at 12:47 am

    A child doesn’t second guess and they aren’t afraid of making a “mistake”. They don’t even know what that is. I am deciding to greet my “mistakes” with a smile it is part of the learning process and that keep the door open for creativity.

    • lynnkjones on May 30, 2011 at 4:19 pm

      “Greeting your mistakes with a smile” is such lovely image. Can’t wait to see what doors open!

  6. Paul Berenson on May 30, 2011 at 4:47 am

    “The team that makes the most mistakes usually wins. If you’re not making mistakes you’re probably not doing anything. A doer makes mistakes.”
    John Wooden (legendary UCLA Basketball coach) from his coach Piggy Lambert

    • lynnkjones on May 30, 2011 at 4:17 pm

      Love John Wooden! Thanks for making that thoughtful connection to him.

  7. Gloria Miele on May 30, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    Great post, Lynn. Love the AI process and the concept of looking at things through the eyes of a child. I will share your post in June, in conjunction with the mastermind principle of imagination, which is the theme for the Victory Circles next month. As you say, as an entrepreneur, it’s so important to look at things with an open and inquisitive mind.

    • lynnkjones on May 30, 2011 at 4:16 pm

      I am glad that you found value from the idea of the “child’s mind.” Let me know how it goes with the
      Victory Circles!

  8. Calla Gold on June 1, 2011 at 11:13 pm

    This is a great article! I think that a lot of us lose the ability to even be curious anymore after a certain age. Life happens, we think we know it all, we lose interest in the whys.. But this approach to business, and life, really will open up so many doors your Adult Mind wouldn’t even see.

  9. madeleine vite on June 3, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    Yes it is so true the inner child is the key to success. This is were I get most of my creativity. This is a great article Thank you lynn

    • lynnkjones on June 5, 2011 at 10:49 pm

      Madeleine, Your photos are such a beautiful creative expression, I would love to hear how you tap into your inner child in creating them.

Leave a Comment