New research finds that children outperform adults in producing creative ideas for smartphones devices.
In a day and age when newer phone models are replacing their predecessors more quickly than ever, innovation is key to beating competitors. If mobile companies are seeking innovative designs for new products and services, they would be wise to look towards children rather than adults, according to a recent study published in Sage Open.
The study, conducted by researchers from the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, reads:
“The results show that the mobile service ideas from the young children are significantly more original, transformational, implementable, and relevant than those from the adults.”
The researchers noted that adults are often bogged down by restraints or “frameworks” that they are accustomed to due to their real-world experience with technology. On the other hand, young children suffer less from these imaginative roadblocks and are therefore more free to think outside of the box. However, children are often an untapped source for ideas as they are perceived as young and inexperienced. The study sought to answer the question: “Can young children be a valuable source of creative mobile service ideas?”
In 2006, a large survey regarding mobile service ideas was conducted by researchers from the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. Responses from a randomly sampled population were collected throughout the year via workshops organized throughout the country in places including universities, schools, workplaces and shopping centers.
The answers were usually one to two sentences long and described a mobile service idea or expressed a need that could be fulfilled using mobile technology. In the end, 41,000 ideas were collected from 2,150 participants. The researchers compiled one set of 400 responses from a group of young children from the ages of 7 to 12. Another set of 400 ideas belonged to a group of adults from ages 17 to 59.
Judges were then called upon to evaluate these anonymous ideas, ungrouped and randomized based on their novelty, quality, relevance and workability. The judges had significant amounts of experience in mobile service development and in conducting research on open innovation and creativity in information systems.
The resulting evaluations indicated that children aged 7 to 12 do produce more novel and higher quality ideas than adults aged 17 to 50. The typical view that children’s imaginations are less realistic and thus less relevant than those of adults was found to be untrue in the case of smartphone ideas.
The study provides significant support to the idea that children are in fact more creative than adults. Even though children are becoming increasingly exposed to technology, the researchers write they are able to “keep their ‘fresh eyes’ and open minds when imagining future digital products and services” because at ages 7 to 12, they “are in the intellectual development phase, and their minds are still forming and naturally more open than those of adults.”
However, because the “window of opportunity” in which children are able to utilize this valuable creativity closes very quickly, the researchers recommended that their creative power be harnessed “in time.”