Thinking little to achieve big
British Library Business & IP Centre ambassador, Paul Lindley, founder of Ella’s Kitchen, explains what motivated him to write his new book ‘Little Wins’ and why entrepreneurs should continue to channel their ‘inner child’. Come and hear him at tonight’s event where he demonstrates how employing a toddler mindset helped him to set up and run a global business. He will be joined by entrepreneurial playmates, Rob Wilson, Toast Ale and Jimmy Cregan, Jimmy’s Iced Coffee.
What inspired you to write Little Wins?
The idea for Little Wins has evolved over the last twenty years of my working life. Prior to launching Ella’s Kitchen, I worked at children’s TV network Nickelodeon, where I was constantly amazed by the remarkable brainpower of young children. The personal experience of raising my two children, Ella and Paddy, furthered these insights, and through Ella’s Kitchen, I am lucky enough to still have a constant stream of inspiring little ones in my life.
Toddlers are the world’s most creative, free-thinking and self-confident individuals. When learning to walk and talk, toddlers persist gamely and fearlessly, trying and failing hundreds of times until they get it right, without ever losing the inquisitiveness and optimism that made them start trying in the first place.
However, as we grow up social insecurities take hold, and many of us lose touch with these precious skills – especially nowadays, when complex political climates, environmental issues and further social stresses mean life is more pressurised than ever before.
Yet this needn’t be the case! We can all find the key to stepping back and unlocking our personal potential, not by learning new skills, but by rediscovering old ones – the mindset we all once had as toddlers.
What is Little Wins about?
Little Wins is about discovering how to recapture a new and less cluttered perspective on life by embracing a toddler mindset and rediscovering some of the good habits you used to have in your early years.
For example, in his popular TED talk ‘Do Schools Kill Creativity?’, educationalist Sir Ken Robinson quotes the fact that 98 percent of three- to five-year-olds tested for their creativity showed the ability to ‘think in divergent ways’. By the age of twenty-five, this figure drops to just 2 percent. We can all learn to grow down and unlock these skills.
‘Growing down’ involves casting off some of the self-imposed restrictions that govern our everyday lives, and reawakening our most creative, ambitious and determined selves. This is what I’ve done with Ella’s Kitchen, and it really has been the key to our success, enabling us to develop from an idea at my kitchen table to the UK’s best-selling baby-food brand.
With my new book Little Wins: The Huge Power of Thinking Like a Toddler, I’ve tried to create a kind of personal development guide from what I’ve learnt throughout my career and personal life – together with research from a range of psychologists, researchers and business leaders – to help others embark on this same journey.
What is the top takeaway from the book?
Perhaps the most important lesson in Little Wins – and one that encapsulates my other eight steps to growing down – is the need to embrace the power of play.
Toddlers explore the world through imagination and play – quite literally everything has the potential to be an adventure. As we grow up, play stops being a priority. However, psychologist Stuart Brown, founder of the California-based National Institute for Play, has conducted research which has revealed that adults are just as susceptible to play deprivation as children – leaving them ‘rigid, humourless, inflexible and closed to trying out new options’.
Even in a business context, play is crucial. Embracing the power of play can help us to think outside the box, adapt to changing situations, and innovate new solutions to problems. At Ella’s Kitchen, we have always adopted a playful, childlike approach in everything we do – from our product creation, through to our marketing strategy and our employee welfare schemes – and it has been central to our success.
Who do you think captures the toddler mindset?
Many quintessential toddler qualities – single-minded confidence, boundless creativity, unwavering determination – are those that define the most successful business leaders and entrepreneurs. I’ve been lucky enough to come across many talented, inspiring individuals who embody this mindset, but one that has always stood out for me is Sir Richard Branson.
Virgin are a perfect example of toddler thinking in a corporate world; and Richard Branson has even written the foreword to Little Wins, to explain how his adoption of a toddler mindset has been the key to his success. He is a great example of relentless, optimistic, determination to push the boundaries, and a refusal to be constrained by the norms of growing up – in his own words, ‘growing up can be a trap, but it doesn’t have to be!’