Bringing Play to Work

I recently went along to a primary school  open day to see about enrolling my four year old in her first year at school. There’s quite a bit to take in. But one thing caught my attention. This particular school made a big deal about using play based learning in the prep year. It got me thinking about how we might bring play based learning into the business environment, and to creative thinking in particular. Today’s challenge is how to make brainstorming your business model fun…

Oh no, it’s a workshop! 

Brainstorms, workshops and lateral thinking exercises often involve an element of discomfort as facilitators try to move us out of our comfort zone and into a more energetic and creative arena. Why is this? And why in particular do children find it so natural to engage in play whilst grown ups find it so unnatural to bring that same sense of play to work?

Play based learning

Whilst there are multiple definitions, some common features of play-based learning seem to be:

  • play is about collaboration, communication and creativity
  • play is about actively engaging with physical and social environments
  • play helps children learn how to explore, identify, negotiate, take risks and create meaning
  • play happens inside and outside, and can integrate music, movement and creative expression
  • play increases feelings of success and optimism

Online resources are high on getting messy, making stuff, and constructing experiments with sites like the filth wizards, the tinker lab, and get your mess on. If you screw up your eyes, it’s all a bit reminiscent of IDEO prototyping.

We need more Toys

And then I came across this article on toys. The central idea is to use toys and creative play to foster imagination, and to invite a sense of curiosity and playfulness.

in creative play we invent, prototype, test, and iterate on our designs

So how do we translate this into the boardroom? The answer is to think creatively about it. We don’t have to invite executives to start playing with play dough and paint (although maybe we should),  instead we need to find clever ways to invite collaboration, communication and creative engagement by designing better activities. This can include smart use of technology, particularly with the more tactile and interactive formats now available. Perhaps it’s time to step up to the challenge and bring the fun back into our working lives!

Here are three ways to have more fun at work

  1. Imagination: use toys and props that can be put to many uses, that spark imagination and invite exploration
  2. Collaboration: setup social and physical environments that invite collaboration, interaction and negotiation
  3. Communication: use story telling and make believe to transport people to another world where cardboard boxes become space ships and anything is possible

2 thoughts on “Bringing Play to Work

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