Quantum Parenting

I was reading a blog by James Everingham, Head of Engineering at Instagram, titled The Principles of Quantum Team Management.

The bottom line is that you can affect the outcome of any project as a manager simply by inserting yourself into the project… and that’s not great.

For example:

Often, a manager will take their team into a room and say, “Here’s what we need to do,” or “Here’s what I’ve been thinking,” or “Here’s one way we can think about this…” as they start sketching on a whiteboard. They’re trying to add value. We always want to add value. But if you’re in any position of authority and you do this, you’ve just limited the number of outcomes and your path to success pretty dramatically.
It’s very likely that someone on your team will think of a better solution, but as soon as you say what you think, everyone gets a whole lot less creative.

Sometimes I find myself doing that as a parent — playing with my kids but stepping all over their creativity by imposing my own limits on their imagination. The more you analyse your interactions with kids, the more instances of this you tend to find.

So to adapt Everingham:

Being a good parent is not about avoiding failure — it’s about enabling as many different paths forward as possible for as long as possible.

We’ve picked up so much baggage and so many hang-ups through us growing up and so many inhibitions, kids have none of this.

Parenting is just a bit less about what children can learn from us, than it is about what we can learn from them.

It’s even more important when you realise that our kids are growing up in a world that’s super different to the one that we see, and they need different skills for that. To quote my friend Stephen, “the jobs they will take probably haven’t even been created yet”.

And there’s a huge bonus to letting your kids run free with their ideas, more than just empowerment and respect, you really get to know them and understand how they think.


Alfie Kohn writes a load of good stuff along these lines, and I’m really enjoying The Myth of the Spoiled Child.

Drew Magary’s Someone Could Get Hurt is also a really enlightening read.