Let’s Play. No Seriously, Let’s Play.

In Cool Ideas, Facilitating Genius, High Touch on March 6, 2011 at 6:11 pm

Hmmm ... Is this an old / new location for a cell phone tower?

There’s an emerging body of literature on the topic of serious play. Google the term ‘serious play’ and you’ll discover a company that uses LEGO toys in its consulting work with industry, a book by Michael Schrage on how the world’s best companies use simulation to stimulate innovation, as well as a link to a most interesting conference held in 2008 in Pasedena, California.

In the best case scenario, engaging a group of serious adults in creative play may reveal potential solutions to some of our most pressing problems.  Worse case, the group let’s off some steam and may have a little fun.

Designing such playful, problem-solving activities is the domain of a skilled facilitator who can challenge members of the group to role play, ask what if ?, and/or imagine what could be if only ____.

So consider …

  • When a group gets stuck, it may be time to play.
  • When a team hits a slump, it may be time to play.
  • When the approach you’re using no longer works, it may be time to play.

And when no one within your group is willing to appear foolish — for fear that they aren’t being taken seriously — it may be time to hire a certified professional facilitator to organize a ‘play date.’

Don’t take my word for it.  Check out the TED Talk by Tim Brown on creativity and play (set aside 28 minutes and then click here).

Still not convinced?

Well if you’re looking for a different outcome, a break through in performance, or a relatively new view of the world; a very smart physicist once said: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Oh yeah, do remember who it was that sent you on this playful journey.

Seriously, let’s play.


BONUS … I will send a ‘playful prize’ to each person who correctly names the above mentioned physicist.  Yes, this is a game I’ve designed for any and all who follow this blog.  Note: To claim this prize, you must share with me your current e-mail address.

  1. I believe it was Einstein who made the comment about insanity being trying the same thing over and again despite that it hasn’t worked and expecting a different outcome. Dr. Einstein was all about creative thinking. He said he got some of his best ideas while he was shaving and doing other sorts of activities that allowed his mind to wander.

    Hear, hear! on providing opportunities for creative play at work. It can pay off, big time, or the Googles and Soutwest Airlines wouldn’t support it. In some of my training programs, I share a lot of related ideas that HR expert John Putzier has gathered in his great resource book, Get Weird: 101 Innovative Ways to Make Your Company a Great Place to Work. He sites a study in his book that concludes that adults perform better on a task when it is considered “play” than when that same task is considered “work.”

    I’ll be sharing some of these ideas in a workshop I’ll be leading on culture change that supports innovation at the CBODN conference at the end of April. Thanks for sharing this information, and I look forward to watching the TED video.


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