The Value of an Idea

Over the many years of reading to my kids I have developed a list of my favorite children’s books. You know these books well. These are the books that even as your kids grow older you will not give away, the ones that you give as gifts to friends when they have kids and let’s be honest these are the ones that sometimes you might just re-read yourself every once in a while. Some simply because of the memories tied to them, others because of the beautiful illustration or silly humor that brought smiles and giggles to their little faces or maybe because the message itself is just too good to let sit on a shelf forgotten.

One of my favorites in particular is New York Times Best Selling What Do You Do With an Idea? by author Kobi Yamada. Have you read it? If not add it to your list as a must read. It is a simple and sweet story about what can happen when you chose not to ignore your ideas and tuck them away but rather acknowledge them, foster them and let them grow. In my opinion Yamada’s book is equally good as a gift for children as it is a gift to any one at just about any stage of life as a reminder to tend and care for our ideas.

As my daughter and I sat and re-read the book recently the message reminded me of the Thomas Edison quote

The value of an idea lies in the using of it

so we began to discuss ways in which she could explore some of her own ideas. What are her ideas? What does she think about making or creating or doing? Her ideas were mostly about slime and all of the ways in which she could make the best slime -ever. As our conversation evolved into mapping out her plan we began a list of the supplies she would need glue, paint, shaving cream…where we could get them, Target or Michaels, how soon I would take her to get them “Mom, can we go now?!” and so on. As we worked out the details for her slime making extravaganza it occurred to me that maybe the most critical, most foundational part of an idea does not lie in the use of it at all.

What if the most critical part of an idea lies in the opportunity for the idea to occur in the first place?

What I realized as we re-read the book and mapped out her slime making plans is that it was not the book alone that prompted her creative thinking but rather a combination of the book, the opportunity to sit with me and discuss it, the confidence and belief that I would not laugh at her idea or tell her it was a bad one and that I would support her in brining her slime ideas to life.

It is reasonable, I believe, to think that we all come into this world equally equipped to have ideas. I am certainly not a neurologist but likely we all are born hard-wired to have them. What we do not equally have is the opportunity to be in a school, family, work or social environment that surrounds us with people who care about our ideas, that are willing to listen to and explore our ideas with us, that give us confidence to believe our ideas can grow into something great or even to simply to be in an environment that allows us to pursue new ideas without getting laughed out of a room.

So, let’s think about this for a second.

If it is reasonable to agree that generally speaking yes, we are all equally hard-wired to have ideas but no, not equally given the opportunity to be encouraged, supported or given the confidence to explore them because others have deemed them silly, impossible, a waste of time, not a good use of resources, not something a girl/boy should do, not something a man/women should do, and so on then

How many amazing, game-changing ideas, solutions and innovations have we all missed out on?

I cringe at the thought and hopefully you do too.

What To Do With an Idea will always remain one of my most favorite children’s books but every time I read it or give it to a friend I will forever be more thoughtful in understanding that the book’s message of tending to and growing ideas also requires that we first create the opportunity for our kids, ourselves, our peers and colleagues to feel confident and safe in pursuing the message of the book.

If you do not have the book go get it but please do not stop there.

Read it with your kids, grandkids, or that Sunday School Class you teach. Ask them about their ideas and give them the opportunity to develop confidence in exploring their ideas with your support. Take a friend or colleague out of coffee or lunch and pick their brain about their ideas. Give them the opportunity to be heard without judgement. Let’s level the playing field for more ideas to be explored and more amazing ideas to come to life one book, one conversation at a time.





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