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Innovation: The business benefits of thinking like a child

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Business inspirations come from everywhere. Sometimes, the best ones come from the youngest people.

Consider this example from a recent Investor’s Business Daily article: Maxine Clark was out shopping with her friend’s daughter when they came across some Beanie Babies at a toy store. “You know, these are so simple,” the child said. “We could make these.”

What the child meant was that they could sew up some stuffed animals as a craft project at home. What the business executive heard was that she could start a business in which customers designed and built their own teddy bears practically from scratch, with custommade accessories.

In 1997, Clark launched Build-A-Bear Workshop in St. Louis, which grew into one of America’s top toy dealers by 2006.

Clark continues to listen to her customers. “Every day, I listen to what young children have to say,” she says. “Kids are just plain insightful, regardless of the business you’re in. They look at the world differently.”

Here are some qualities we all could borrow from children:

• They aren't afraid of looking silly or showing their emotions.

Unless they’ve been terribly wronged, they treat others kindly.

By and large, they’re unafraid.

They don’t censor themselves for fear of sounding stupid, being judged or getting in trouble.

If you trust them with duties and responsibilities, they will shoulder them and reward you with childlike wonder, not childish behavior.

They respond to a fun environment.

Bottom line: Let your customers and employees be kids.

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