Lessons in Problem Solving from a 1-year old

Recently, we purchased one of those toys that are ubiquitous in every doctor’s and dentist’s waiting room.  It’s one of “bead mazes” with wooden blocks strung on wires.  Kids push the “chains” of wooden blocks in circles and loop-the-loops from one end to the other.

Bead Maze

Shortly after purchasing said toy at our local Swedish furniture emporium, it was assembled, placed on the carpet, and presented to my 1-year old son.  What happened next was something that I could not have (though perhaps should have) predicted.

Now, what an adult would do when presented with such a situation would go something like this.  First, the toy would be examined.  Shortly thereafter, one would determine that — aha! — I see the wires, and I see the blocks, and therefore I can deduce that I am supposed to take these blocks “X” and push them along wires “Y” to get them from point “A” to point “B.”

Simple.  Straight-forward.  Logical.  Challenge met and problem solved!

As adults, we have the “advantage” of experience.  Without any instruction, we’re able to understand the premise of the situation, and assume how we are supposed to approach it.

Of course, this is also the same way adults approach challenges in their personal and professional lives every day.  We see a problem and oftentimes assume the way that we are supposed to solve that problem.

But what if we approached a problem more like a 1-year old?

With keen interest, I’ve watched my son grow and explore the world over the last 14 months.  Even so,  I assumed — adult that I am — that he would examine the toy, and shortly thereafter start pushing around wooden blocks from point “A” to point “B” on their wire rails.

But he didn’t.  Of course he didn’t!

My 1-year old son crawled up to the toy, sat down next to it, then picked it up and shook the living daylights out of it.

That’s something an adult would never do.  But his perception of what the “problem” and it’s “solution” isn’t encumbered by “experience.”  He simply saw a bright, primary-colored toy.  And his solution was to pick it up and shake it.  BONUS — it made an awesome noise too.

Afterward, he turned it upside-down.  Placed it on its side.  Then tried to eat some of the wooden blocks.  He smiled and laughed the whole time he was doing it.  When he was done solving the problem as he saw fit, he continued on along the carpet smiling the whole way.

There’s a lesson here for us adults that have all these assumptions built into our thinking.

Next time you encounter something new, a challenge or a problem, don’t assume there’s a right way and a wrong way to approach it.  Maybe the best way to deal with the situation is to ignore those wires altogether.  Maybe you don’t have to move “X” and “Y” from point “A” to point “B.”  Maybe there’s a way that will work better for you…

Heck, maybe the best way to solve your problem is just to grab it, shake it, and see if it just may sort itself out on its own!!


Posted in Ideas

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