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Why channelling your inner child could help your creativity

Nobody likes to look stupid in meetings, but sometimes asking seemingly dumb questions or admitting you don’t understand something can unlock better creative work, says Julian Harriman-Dickinson

I was sitting in a client workshop recently (the kind of workshop that four people had flown in for, each with decades of experience) when I realised we’d spent the last 35 minutes speaking about semantics and very little else. Somehow, everyone had tangled themselves up in so many knots they didn’t even know what they were talking about anymore, or what they were supposed to be working on.

It was, quite frankly, a terrible environment for creativity. And it was all because everyone was too scared of looking stupid to ask what they actually needed to know.

It’s no surprise that research shows we’re most creative when we’re children – though I don’t believe it’s because we used to be surrounded by toys (and unhampered by the need to pay bills). I think it’s because children are encouraged to say whatever they’re really thinking, and feel free to ask questions whenever they’re confused. Their parents don’t make them feel stupid, and they can make mistakes without repercussions or shame.

As a grown up, I wish this was still the case. Pretending to know everything is unhelpful and exhausting – almost as exhausting as realising you have to decode an overcomplicated brief through trial and error, when you could have just asked your client upfront to explain it.