Adriaan Wagenaar Helps Companies with Kids!
I met Adriaan Wagenaar in Amsterdam. With Open Minds Open World Adriaan is helping companies to find new ideas, new products, new services with the help of kids. For the benefit of the companies, the school and the kids.
This is one of the most futurist ideas and projects I have ever seen!
And Adriaan also gives us five amazing practical advice to be future proof 🙂
Children and Organizations Work together
With Open Minds, Open World, I bring together children and organizations to work together on organizational issues. By helping to look through the eyes of a child, I help people develop their open mind, their imagination, and the resourcefulness in order to find new opportunities, situations where others say, “It’s not possible. We don’t do this here.”
I work with children of the age of 10 to 12 years old, and the technique I use is Socratical conversations. In that conversations, the questions are more important than the answers. At school, children learn to create answers on questions, “How old are you?” They answer the question, but what I teach children is to ask the right questions, and develop ideas on questions like, “What if there will be a happiness store? What would they sell there?” Or, “If you could have an ATM card, in which you can pay happiness, how will you recharge your battery? How will you recharge your ATM card?” That kinds of questions.
Mixing Managers and Kids
At some point, they are mixed together, but I begin with a session with a management team, to develop the right question, what’s their biggest issue they want to solve, and the biggest issue they challenge at this moment.
For instance, about local healthcare. How can we organize people in local communities to take care for each other, instead of trusting their insurance company, or their healthcare company, to arrange that kind of things?
What is most Important, a Friend or a Stranger?
It’s about community building, and it’s about what is needed to build that movement locally. I translated this question for children, and I’ll say, for instance, “What is more important in your life, a friend or a foreigner?” It was fascinating, because what children said was, “A foreigner,” because when I would be outside, and I fall off my bicycle, there’s not always a friend to help me out there, but there’s always a foreigner, and there are more foreigners around than friends, so therefore, we should take care about foreigners, because also, they are most of the time the ones who could help us, and we are foreigners for them, so we help other people out.
How to connect with foreigners? That’s the question that came out of that session, and that’s the question that I presented, in their ideas for the local healthcare insurance company, or the healthcare company who wanted to create a vision, and more ideas about local healthcare.
For instance, they developed a local healthcare market, or it would be a kind of navigation tool, where how would it work? Now they are thinking about creating the kind of navigator online, because so many people can make a difference for others. I didn’t know you before today, but maybe you are a great mindfulness teacher, and I need mindfulness in my life right now, because I’m very stressed, or I’m afraid that I will lose my job, so it could be a good thing to get in touch with you.
That navigator helps me to find you on the website of the insurance company, to get in touch without the insurance company selling insurance products. Their role is changing. This is what children can do for a company.
Who are the Children?
Ideal group consists of 10 children. I just call schools, and over the last 15 years that I’m working on this, a lot of schools are calling me to ask if they can participate in this project. I just just connect with schools and ask if they are willing to participate in this program, and they get money from it, so that’s the other part, they get a fee out of the project, as a bonus for participating.
For the children just, it’s a part of their education program, but they help the school to be more economical flourishing, because they earn money to spend on philosophy materials!
And it’s an amazing experience for the kids.
A School and a Company Project
The first session is with managers, then four or five sessions with children, where they do philosophy, where they create things, they build things, they make things, they investigate and research in their own environment, they ask parents, people on the streets, then they come up with a prototype. It might be things that they make out of shoe boxes, or things they work out on the computer, a computer game or whatever, and they present it in the final session to the management team and stakeholders that are invited. This is the place where I again do a philosophy session with the audience. The children have a pole position, because they already are prepared to present their findings.
I have to prepare them to make themselves comfortable to do that. The children have to be themselves, and that’s my job in that session, to help the children to feel confident, and the managers to open their eyes and open their mind for new insights.
Philosophers and Children
I hope that a lot of people will follow this example, because there are a lot of philosophers who work with children, and one of my main purposes in the beginning was to help them, also, to create new work, because it’s very difficult to find work as a philosopher on primary schools.
The other part is translating to the business world, because you can read books about what is needed in companies today, it’s creativity, it’s working with an open mind, it’s using your imagination.
The Inconvenient Truth
One of the biggest misunderstandings in our society, that we think children will learn a lot at the moment they go to school, and we seldom realize that children also unlearn when they go to school. Children are un-developing the qualities they had before they go to school, and it’s about creativity, it’s about having an open mind, and it’s about trusting your own mind, your own thinking process.
Here’s the other part of the so-called “Inconvenient truth” is when we start to work in organizations, the same thing happens as when we were children at schools. We start, enthusiastic, with a lot of ideas. but when we first start working people say “No, we don’t do that this way.”
Most people in organizations start to opt out, start to think small instead of think big, so what happens to children happens to people at organizations. I see it as my mission to bring those together and help them to revitalize the qualities they already have. You don’t have to learn new things, you just have to remember the things you already know.
What is More Important: Past or Future?
It was for a financial corporation, and we were speaking about the future, and the philosophical question was, “What is more important, the past or the future?” It’s a philosophical question, because the answer doesn’t matter. Some kids said, “The past is more important because the past we already have,” some kids said, “The future is important, because the future is the only thing we have. There is no past. The past is like a cookie, we eat the past, and then that’s it.” The future is the only thing that’s available for us.
Then other kids started to react on that, they said, “No, I think the past isn’t fixed. I think the future is fixed,” I mean I know, I predict after 20 years, I still can call myself Adriaan, and I can exactly predict my age. I can predict that I will have a job, and have a car. That’s fixed. The past is different. I can think, every time, something different of the past, and I think, “Oh,” I see a picture of when I was a little baby and I thought, “Oh yeah, that was me.”
The future is fixed, then one of the children said, and that was the magic moment, “I don’t think so. I don’t think the future is fixed, because you don’t know when you are going to die. If I stand up from this chair, and I walk that way, there’s an electricity cord, and I can fall, and maybe I’m dead, being electrocuted, and I can also walk that way, and then nothing happens,” so the little boy said, “I think the future can change, with every step I take. If I go that way, I will be dead, and if I go that way, I have a different life.”
That insight was very amazing, by the managers, by the marketing team who were sitting around and listening to the point. When we are thinking about creating new financial products and retirement products, we think people will know exactly where they will be in the next 20 years, but what if people change their lives? What if they are a marketing director now, and they quit their job, and they go to Africa to work in a little village to help people out there, or begin a hotel somewhere in France, or have a total different life with a total different perspective? What kind of service do we have for people who move, with every step they take? Are we really willing to be there for those people, and are we willing to serve them with our services?
That, I find, is very great that I could have those people think about their products and their services, and the significance, just caused by the idea of that 10 year old boy.
Five Most Important Advice to be Future Proof
This is what I learned from the 15 years working with children and managers.
- Never stop thinking big. Instead of seeing the reality, you should always be open for the potential, instead of what’s really happening, so the potential of what’s happening.
- Then think small. That’s very paradoxical. It sounds like a paradox, and it is, but when you have your dream, and when you see your possibility, the potential of things, you should immediately start to see the small signs that are already there, that you otherwise overlook. That’s the second step, think small, and be ready and be available for the small signs that are already in your environment, near you, they’re in front of you.
- Change a negative thought into a helping thought. Things like, “I can’t do this. I’m too old. I’m too young. I don’t have the right experience,” change it into a thought that helps you to see the world differently. That’s the third principle: to face your negative thoughts.
- Create a helping environment and organize an environment that helps you to realize your dream, your potential. In the moment you see, you think big, you see your potential, in the moment you see the small signs, in the moment you are able to transform your negative thoughts into a helping thought, positive thought, you see there’s a helping environment already there. It’s around you. You just can tap in.
- Play. Create a small step to create a big difference. The small step you can think of, and create a small invitation to invite others to work with you, to be with you, to help you, to create a big difference, and to help to make those dreams possible.