Why is a Danish Innovation professor in love with a cartoon for 2 year olds?
The cartoon aimed at pre-schoolers follows the adventures of a little girl called Sarah and her best friend Duck, narrated by the brilliant Roger Allam. At the moment the show is only available in the UK, but if you send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and ask nicely they may release the series on DVD.
But what could a Danish professor of Innovation possibly learn from a childrens program? Quite a lot as it turns out. Sarah and Duck is a very elegant way of showing how children use their imagination, and we can use it to inspire our own innovation processes. Crazy as it sounds, a little girl and a very quacky duck share some great innovation lessons as they have their adventures.
Duck is Sarah’s non-critical companion.
Throughout each episode of the show, Sarah has a wide range of unusual and improbable, quirky adventures. Duck is her only companion through these adventures. Duck doesn’t talk, he just quacks. So Duck never says anything negative or critical. Duck lets Sarah’s ideas and creativity flow. He never gets in the way of Sarah’s creativity, no matter where it leads them. Duck only has one response to any situation, quacky approval. Imagine how much more innovative you would become if the people closest to you just approved of everything you did and let you get on with it.
Sarah and Duck are trusted to be unsupervised.
Throughout the show, Sarah leads the adventure completely unsupervised. Their are no parents, no rules, and no limits. Sarah is trusted by the unseen narrator to play and create in an unsupervised manner. No one tells Sarah what to do or how to think. How many great ideas have you repressed because you were scared of what others might think?
Sarah and Duck are comfortable with fantasy as reality.
The whimsical adventures blend seamlessly from a realistic world to the realm of fantasy and back again. She is just as likely to be in a realistic situation such as riding a bus or going to the shops as she is to be in a fantastic situation talking to rainbows or joking with the moon. Young children know that fantasy is just as important, if not more so, than realistic situations, but as we grow older we forget this blue sky thinking. When we innovate we need to see the world differently, and we need to accept that things that sound crazy and unusual actually help us tell a story and reach a deeper understanding of our ideas.
Sarah and Duck have crisis rituals.
Sarah and duck behave in a predictable way. When things go wrong they drink nice cups of hot lemon water. When things go well they make time for a “sit-and-think”. Sarah and Duck always finish their adventures, they never give up and just go home, they see things through no matter how strange they get. By building a predictable, rational way of dealing with challenges Sarah is free to innovate without worry that she will get into a threatening situation. Having rituals brings a sense of calm to the chaotic creative process.
Sarah and Duck co-create.
Sarah and Duck co-operate, co-create, collaborate and co-inspire one another. They have very different personalitys, after all, one is a mallard! But they play off of one another beautifully, and inspire each other to action through fun, stupidity, silliness and playfulness. When you watch someone who is very different to you try to attempt the same task as you, but in a different way, it inspires innovative approaches to problem solving.
Sarah and Duck find joy in everything.
A rainy day, an empty packet of sweets, a ball that wont bounce. These are heartbreakingly sad things for a 2 year old. But Sarah and Duck find joy and imagination in every situation. Sometimes its easy to feel down when you run out of resources. Innovators know you have to use every situation to your advantage.
Well, I am sure that the creators of Sarah and Duck never imagined that we would find so much about innovation processes in their cartoon, but if you look for inspiration in the strangest of places, you are sure to find it.
I would love to know what you think so please leave a comment below, or share this page with your friends. *Quack*.
Written by Adam Montandon.
All images of Sarah and Duck belong to BBC worldwide and karrot entertainment.