I’ve been doing some fascinating work with young people. I don’t mean 28 or even 23 year olds but proper young people—from seven to 15 years old.

It’s part of our work with National Grid to get school kids excited about science and inspire them to become scientists and engineers when they grow up, to address the national shortage …

National Grid has created a mini science museum focused on energy and we’ve been busy getting kids into it to find out what they think and how much they learn.

Three interesting points have struck me from this project:

1.  Creating content for kids is a great discipline. It makes you do exactly what you should do in all cases: strip away complexity; cut jargon; be concise; tell stories through exciting images; and say what you mean.

During this project, it’s been interesting to see how the materials for kids work equally well for everyone else. Admittedly, if we’d been targeting DPhil physicists we would have said different things in different ways, but for pretty well everyone else they’ve been spot on.

2. Kids are brilliant at getting to the heart of a subject. OK, sometimes they go off at tangents: one boy was fixated by ways science can kill you. But they generally have a great knack of cutting to the main point. They’re not tangled up by management-speak and industry terminology. And at primary school age—unlike too many people in the business world—they don’t pretend to understand the incomprehensible. They ask fundamental questions and make points that others keep to themselves for fear of sounding foolish.

There must be a way to harness this. From now on, I’ll bring a bunch of kids in to run client messaging sessions and to turn websites full of corporate mumbo-jumbo into proper sense. Perhaps.

3. You couldn’t help being swept up by the tidal wave of enthusiasm from the primary school kids. They were bursting to participate, eager to answer every question and desperate to get their hands on the things that were there to get their hands on.  They were having fun—while working and learning things along the way unwittingly.  This age group is almost always like this.

Not so the secondary school pupils. Teenagers are much more reticent, harder to engage and tougher to enthuse. In this case, it was only by testing their knowledge later through written questionnaires that we discovered they knew far more than they’d been letting on. Nor do any adults I know have the verve of younger kids.

What happens between the ages of 9 and 13 that knocks the excitement, openness and imagination out of us?  How much more creative and inventive would we be if we were more like them? I guess I wouldn’t want to behave exactly like an eight year old because that keenness to pile into everything must make a big dent in focus and productivity. And my clients would think I’d lost the plot.

But most grown ups I know would be better off letting out at least a little more of their inner child.

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