The Idea Dude


Friday, September 29, 2006

Serious play

Haydn over at Mediangle carried an interesting post on role of "play" or "fun" in creativity and innovation. I agree with him that work is inextricably linked with reward usually material in nature. When there is an end goal like money, focus comes into play and your choices and paths are automatically narrowed. The balance is to ensure that we don't stifle creativity and innovation in anything we do. Usually this means going broad occasionally to check out our options before narrowing our choices. The path to creativity and innovation is to play. Playing frees the mind of specific goals allowing us to flex the possibilities and see where it takes us. When work is fun, it ceases to become work. Our perception of risk during play is far less than during work. Perhaps that is why there seems to be high levels of stress at work. We take failure much harder in that context.

The title of the post was inspired by an initiative by Lego, called Serious Play to introduce its marvelous building blocks into business and strategic thinking. There is an interesting notion that if we were busy with our hands, we actually think better too. I've been known to buy a couple dozen Lego kits as gifts to my software developers to try and encourage the culture that play and building blocks are essential components to building great software. Incidently, one of the greatest technology tools that allow us to play "what if" games was the good old spreadsheet, perhaps our best example of all about serious play.

A final thought is that Fast Company carried an article a while ago about why patients with heart issues usually fall back into bad habits after some good intentions following a heart attack. The idea there was that fear was not a great sustainer of good habits. Note the number of people who join gyms after Christmas to eventually abandoned expensive contracts. Fear drives us to change our habits but doesn't necessarily help us maintain them. Perhaps it is because we view them as chores or work that is forced upon us either by people or by circumstance. The ones that do go to gym regularly, diet religeously, practice piano with discipline are often driven by a passion and love for what they do. Ergo, they are not really working but playing.


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