Innovation and Breaking Rules


Image by Zeptonn via Flickr

A few years back, I brought my son to work with me. I was technically supposed to be out of the office for a vacation day, but had a couple of loose ends to tie up. I figured my 5-year old would enjoy a trip to the office. Our office had a Wii and lots of office supplies to keep him busy. After beating one of my colleagues at Wii bowling and telling my manager he didn’t like meetings, my son jumped into our last meeting.

We sat in a small, windowless room with a conference table that was too big and too many chairs to comfortably navigate around. One of the better features of the room were the freshly painted, cream-colored walls. As I looked around for items that might occupy my son, I saw giant flip chart paper and markers. I thought, “Wow, he’s going to love drawing larger than life.” I proceeded to tape 4 pieces of poster sized paper to the wall and gave him a set of markers.

Once he was settled, we began our meeting. After a few minutes, my colleagues burst out laughing. When I turned around I saw my son had used the markers to draw all over the walls. There wasn’t even a trace of marker on the paper – none, zilch, nada! In asking my son why he drew on the wall, he shyly shrugged his shoulders and quizzically said, “I really don’t know.”

One of my colleagues remarked that my son had taught us all a lesson. Sometimes, it is hard to stay within the lines. Breaking rules is part of nature and part of innovation. Though I did not internalize this lesson at the time, looking back what I realized is that being naive to the rules can lead to great breakthroughs.

So, go out and naively break some rules.

And, P.S. –  a Mr. Clean sponge erases marker!

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