All I Really Need to Know I learned from… Dr. Seuss

Observations February 15, 2011 11:40 pm

Putting on my child sized thinking cap!

That Dr. Seuss, what a character!   Shoot- he wasn’t even a real doctor…and he certainly wasn’t some highfalutin business consultant.

Nope, Dr. Seuss is best known as a children’s book writer who had a flair for the imaginative and nonsensical: the man who gave readers fantasy lands filled with characters like a Grinch [who learns that Christmas is more than gifts], the [eco-conscious] Lorax, and [a book loving] Cat who wears a Hat.

Hmm… maybe Dr. Seuss’ world wasn’t so nonsensical after all.  He was, after all, able to get his viewpoint across on some pretty complex/pressing issues.  The imaginative/fanciful part was in his approach- he was able to break down the complex issues in such a way that even the smallest child could both delight in the story and comprehend, on a basic level, that there is more to Christmas than presents, that we need to protect our natural resources, and that reading can be fun.  But the real magic, in my opinion? Seuss didn’t trivialize the issues with his approach- the messages in the books also resonated with the adults reading the children the stories.  (I’m reminded of some present day Pixar films that approach issues in the same way- Wall-E anyone?)

Maybe it’s just my overly idealistic nature, but I think Dr. Seuss was on to something- what if we approached business problems [or really any problem] through the eyes of an innocent child?  Could we perhaps gain some clarity/insight into how to best tackle business problems if we were forced to take a step back and simplify these problems/our resulting solutions to such a level that a 5 yr old could understand?

A few Dr. Suess-isms I really love, and wish were more widely practiced in the business world:

“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!”

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind!”

What kind of crazy person thinks left? Or really says what they mean all the time?  A child. Children aren’t afraid to imagine, [think outside of the box in business jargon] say what’s really on their minds, [uninhibited brainstorming for grownups] or question others when they don’t understand or have a different opinion [daring groupthink and the popular opinion at the office].

But when was the last time you thought left at the office?  What if we forced ourselves to think like children- with uninhibited creativity and curiosity?   What’s the worst that could happen?  We have to explain to our co-workers why we proposed something a little different?

Here’s where thinking with the simplicity of a child could really come in handy– we could break down the reasoning behind the new/different idea to a very basic level– which will do two things: ensure that we know the intricacies of what we’re proposing inside and out, and ensure that our co-workers have the best possible chance of understanding our proposal.

And really, what’s the worst thing that could happen?  Rejection?  As long as you approach the situation, and all parties involved with respect, there’s still a silver lining to rejection.  You opened yourself up to new possibilities- and the more you’re willing to ‘think left’ the more you’ll be able to come up with new/different ideas that are actually workable.

And I say this from experience.  If you’ve read any of my other posts (or even just my bio), you’ll know I’m a researcher.  But I write about my ideas for advertising, namely for television shows- promoting a show through a group buying platform, asking fans to create their own show promos with Xtranormal, and redefining what it means to be a member of a ‘street team.’  Have any of these ideas come to fruition? NO.  But have I ‘thought left‘ and proposed them to anyone who will listen? YES. Have I learned from these experiences and have my pitches become better? I’d like to think YES.

And drumroll please… will I soon be tweeting/blogging/shouting from the rooftops about an upcoming promotion that can be partially attributed to me? YES 🙂

Share your  ‘think left’ moments!

**Showing my love for the ‘We Love Bloggers Contest‘- show yours- what have you learned from children?**

  • Mark

    You’re speakin’ my language. I read Suess, Sendak and the boys (and gals) to my IB Lit students and they become 5 year-olds on the kindergarten rug–the messages stick w/out moralizing.

    Seuss is, for sure, that blew the Dick & Jane ethical rot out of the kid’s lit imagination.

    There is still better way to teach reconciliation than “The Sneetches,” the arms race than “Butter Battle…,” or Freud’s theories than “Green Eggs and Ham”

    Here’s my (similar take) on Shel Silverstein:

    • justallie

      Loved reading your post, thanks for sharing!

  • Josepf J Haslam


    So nice to almost meet you yesterday! ((inside joke, we were together at an #UsGuys NYC Meetup but opposite sides of the table, we’re implementing speed dating next time to move people around 🙂 ))

    Love your post! @LewisPoretz and I have discussed Dr. Seuss as a role model for Social Media several times! Started a Blog Post on “Green Eggs and Ham” as the best business book ever. 🙂 Now need to finish that to complement your post.

    Thank you Allie, my post shall no longer Dally, love how to Dr. Seuss we shall rally.. You got it all right, now heading left.


    • justallie

      Next time we’ll have to actually meet! 🙂 Can’t wait to read your post on ‘Green Eggs and Ham’- I can definitely see how the book translates to learnings for companies who are having a hard time adopting/embracing social media (or for that matter- a great book to help us remember to just keep an open mind when we’re presented with anything that’s a bit new and different!!!)

      Good luck thinking left today, perhaps today I’ll think low or right! 🙂

  • Paul Biedermann

    I love posts like this, Allie! I agree that we need to hold onto the child within to help us accomplish breakthroughs as adults. Most people are creative when they’re young, but then somehow lose these skills as they get older. After all, adults are supposed to be serious, right?

    Never has their been a better time to rediscover our creativity — the business world needs more creative thinkers who can inspire innovation. It does mean assuming some risk, but isn’t it riskier sitting on the sidelines looking like everyone else?

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