HR Blog

What Can HR and Business Learn from Children's Stories?

03/01/2018 | Dee Yingst

Children's stories aren't just for children: they have great wisdom for business as well.

Two of my favorite stories are Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (commonly shortened to simply 'Alice in Wonderland') and The Emperor's New Clothes.   Allow me to explain.

So what can we learn from Alice?? Among the many, many lessons Alice's story can teach us, I especially like this one: the importance of having goals.  We all know the basics of the story: Alice follows a rabbit down a hole to a world where nothing is as it seems and every creature seems to talk (some in seemingly endless circles). As she is wandering she comes to a fork in the road:


Without goals, we simply wander aimlessly accomplishing very little. In other words: 

If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there.

So what about The Emperor's New Clothes?? Among the lessons in that story is this gem: speaking the truth even when it's not popular.  If you're not familiar with the story, there's an Emperor who loves new clothes. One day two con men come to town and weave magnificent garments for the emperor and convince him that that only individuals who are smart and good at their job can see the garments – to everyone else the garments are invisible. Well, no one wants to "admit" they are not smart or bad at their job, so everyone goes along with the ruse.

Ever since I joined the ranks of HR I've carried that book with me.  I've told countless managers (sometimes my own manager) that my job was not to tell them what they wanted to hear but instead, tell them what needed to hear.  So the lesson is:

Bad news does not have to be delivered badly, but it does have to be delivered.

So if you're looking for a book recommendation that's a little different from the usual business tomes but still very valuable, check out the children's section of your local library. You won't be sorry.