Last year I was amazed by a couple of stories that had hit the media about kids who had made amazing scientific discoveries. Jack Andraka, who was 15 at the time, had discovered an inexpensive and accurate test for pancreatic, ovarian, and lung cancers. Check out his seven minute video from the TED Talent Search. Another innovation teen Catherine Wong, who was 17 at the time, had created a prototype of a portable electrocardiogram (EKG) that can connect to a cell phone via Bluetooth and transmit the results over a cellular network. As both told their stories it was remarkable how they were undaunted by the trial and error process. They were not deterred by failure or setbacks and they simply kept trying. But where do kids learn not to fear failure and develop the courage to pick themselves up and keep moving forward?
Recently, a friend and former colleague and I were discussing how we had both learned so much more about leadership and leading people from children than we had from any other source: training, education, or on the job experience. Perhaps the last example was due more to the fact that we were deficient in strong developmental “leaders” at our mutual employer but I really think there is something to the simplicity of working with children versus the complexities of leading in business. This simplicity allows us to take action, quickly see the results and then to adjust accordingly if we don’t get a “good” outcome. It is almost like a little mini case study where we get to practice our techniques in real time.
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