When I was little, I had a lot of fantastical ideas. I was convinced my stuffed animals came to life at night to protect the house from burglars lurking in the shadows. I tried to make a deal with the Tooth Fairy to keep her spare change and leave me a unicorn. Once I even pilfered an egg from the fridge and squirreled it away in my room, tucked snuggly in a knitted hat. Convinced that the egg would hatch within days, I hadn’t really thought through how I would explain a new pet chick to my parents, but I was sure they wouldn’t be able to cast him away once they saw his little fluffy face. (Note: My master plan did not result in a pet chick. It did, however, give me valuable insight into why we refrigerate dairy products.) Childhood is a time of imagination, magic and vast possibility. According to psychology researchers at Lancaster University in England, bringing magical content—everything from the Tooth Fairy to the witches and wizards that rule Harry Potter’s Hogwarts—into the classroom boosts student imagination and creativity.
The Study 52 children between the ages of four and six were divided into two groups. The first group viewed scenes from Harry Potter that included characters wielding their wands, using magic and talking to animals. The second group watched clips where no magic is used. At the conclusion of the viewing, both groups of students were asked to come up with alternative uses for a cup and create “drawings of impossible items.” The researchers found students who had watched the magical clips significantly outscored the other group on creativity tests. They concluded that exposure to magical thinking— which they defined as “ways of acting and reasoning about the physical world that violate known physical principles”—enables children to “create fantastic imaginary worlds.” That in turn increases student’s ability to “view the world and act upon it from multiple perspectives.”
Albert Einstein once said, “Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.” It seems there may be more truth to that statement than anyone realized. In the pursuit to find creative and innovative solutions for our clients, we must surround ourselves with magical props, people and possibilities.
On my desk you’ll find an adopted monster, a creativity voodoo doll and a tiny jar of pixie dust. Visitors often ask about them in passing. Truth be told, the monster isn’t that scary, I suspect the voodoo doll is defective and the pixie dust has probably passed its expiration date. These objects in and of themselves don’t make me any more mighty. They don’t give me superpowers. The do, however, serve as little reminders to take a few moments each day to let my head to float up into the clouds. They remind me of a rare and precious time in life when fairies made fair trades, stuffed animals were the best kind of home security system and a dozen peeping pet chicks were just a couple days in a warm hat away. Even a few brief moments a day in that magical memory makes me happy. And when I am happy, I am undeniably a better writer.
Last week I was taking a stroll through the BOF blog archives, and I came across a post from Greg Cordell inspired by his daughter, Kylie. Having known the Cordells for some time now, I am fully convinced that if you examined them under a microscope, you’d find pixie dust twinkling in the double helix of their DNA.
I was reminded of the power of super-sized dreams when I got home last night. As I walked into the house, I noticed Kylie, my nine-year-old daughter, sitting on a blanket in the middle of the backyard, talking to herself. I asked my wife what Kylie doing out there. She told me that our daughter had explained that she was gong outside to pray and she was going to need “lots of space.”
When Kylie came in I gave her a big hug and, of course, I asked what she was doing on the blanket in the middle of the yard. She told me she was praying. “What were you praying for?” I asked. At first she didn’t want to tell me. She said it was a secret. But, as big dreams often do, her prayer bubbled to the surface and she shared that she was praying for a pet dragon. That’s right, a pet dragon. Fully expecting her prayer to be answered, Kylie needed lots of space for the dragon to land, explaining the reason she was praying outside. I asked what she would do if she had a pet dragon. She told me the dragon would make popcorn for her. “Yes,” I said. “That would be very cool.”
During tough economic times, dreams and dreamers can take a beating. Dreams gets pushed aside and we just try to get through the day faster and cheaper. Rather than super-sizing, we can get caught up in “right sizing” and before you know it, we aren’t really dreaming at all. But maybe during tough times is when dreams need to be the biggest. Call me irresponsible or idealistic if you want, but I doubt I’ll ever see any magic in ordinary microwave popcorn again. Not when I can have a dragon in the backyard that will make it for me.
Wishing you a magical Wednesday.
Read more on the study here