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The Power of Play in Innovation

The answer isn’t always to work harder.

In fact, as creatives, hard work gets in our way sometimes.

Think about where and when you and your team have had the best ideas.

I’m willing to bet it wasn’t when you were in the mode of trying to look smart, impressive or professional.

It probably came when you weren’t thinking about results at all.

Play opens us up to more possibilities and gets us into more creative spaces than trying to innovate forcefully. It gets us to the unguarded state where great ideas bubble up.

Feeling guilty about playing at work? Consider that play has some prominent fans:

In the book “Creative Intelligence,” Bruce Nussbaum, professor of innovation and design at Parsons The New School of Design, writes:

Though there are countless ways of playing, play can be defined as tossing aside the rules of “regular life” for a period of time in order to follow new rules or try new possibilities. 

Brendan Boyle of IDEOsays:

The core difference we’re trying to incorporate at IDEO is that play is part of the innovation process not just something you do when you roll out the ping pong tables at a specific time.

There’s even a National Institute for Play. Really.

Play makes it safe to share ideas. When your people experience the excitement, interest, and passion around their work that play brings, they’re drawn toward it. However, when stress, fear, and anxiety surround work, they want to move away from it. Your goal as a leader is to create a work environment your people want to keep moving toward.

In other words, your goal is to play more.

If you need some inspiration and ideas for bringing more playfulness to work, I recommend “Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul” by the Play Institute’s founder, Dr. Stuart Brown.

Play isn’t kids stuff. It’s probably the most important “work” you’ll do all day toward being creative. We’re here when you need a creative play date.

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