Why do we need a playful revolution in the workplace?
I wrote the following article in a Spanish University magazine, as part of my mission to increase global creativity quotient to solve big and small problems,. It gives you an introduction to the importance of play and creativity, as well as and tips on how to setup a more creative environment and develop your creativity.
Play is an activity that can enhance performance in the workplace by increasing collaboration, productivity, creativity, and employee engagement. A playful attitude does not require equipment or difficult procedures, but just a little time and mindset change. It reduces stress, favors bonding and team cohesion, improving the overall wellbeing of everyone involved.
Creativity is a talent with which all people are born and that some of us have something rusty. To activate it, in addition to using creative techniques, we can play games, modify our environment and drink beer in a very specific way.
Play is serious
A “playful” attitude is basic to fostering creativity, and we need it more than ever.
Some time ago, a colleague of mine was walking by my desk and saw some colored markers that I had lying around – for prototyping and visual proposals for user experiences – and she enthusiastically said: “How cool, I want your job”. She didn’t really want my work, but she wanted more color and creativity in hers. It was not the first nor the last that enjoyed the different creative activities and opportunities to do something different that we were able to organize. But I was developing the awareness that “it is necessary to play here”.
As a therapeutic clown I know the importance of humor and laughter in people’s well-being and, after some time, I also began to think that clowns were needed in the workplace. I imagined how my colleagues would react if a clown walked in through the door and simply walked around taking an interest in what they were doing, or proposing some impromptu dance. But the essence of the clown is to play the everything is possible game, and to be able to improvise a solution to any challenge. The essence of the clown is creativity from within play, where mistakes do not exist and you can take risks, because the worst that can happen is to laugh.
We need the peace of mind that there will be no consequences if we make a mistake to dare to risk, to try new things. Sometimes playing allows you to unlock entrenched situations.
A manager I interviewed was hired to do this very thing, after years of work without progress. After doing some research, he identified the problem and solved it by playing: a one- hour session with a game designed for the occasion allowed leaders to make decisions that had been put off for years. Result: a savings for the company of 6.5 million dollars .
On the other hand, with the current situation, stress and isolation, we need to connect more than ever, and play is a relaxed way to do it.
What is a creative environment like?
Tina Seelig, in her book Innovation Engine on creativity and its “innovation engine”, talks about the environment. A creative environment is needed to foster creativity. If everything is gray or neutral, it is not very inspiring for creativity. A Google search for “creative environments” brings up photos of kindergarten. What are the characteristics of a kindergarten? A lot of color, available material, such as paper, cardboard, plasticine, pencils, all kinds of things to manipulate and create in any way.
So I think: what if we had something like a kindergarten in an office? Even if you have made some attempts, it is difficult to have a dedicated space, but you can bring items to sessions, even if the space is temporary. In other words, you can take a box with materials such as those described to an ideation session, and place temporary decoration with more color: from colored A2 cardboard, colored chalk markers to decorate windows…, to using visual templates to guide meetings or team retrospectives.
Apart from the creative materials, I have been able to experiment with activities and board games that serve to develop empathy, collaborations, storytelling, visual language and creativity (divergent thinking in particular). These skills are the necessary pillars to work optimally in innovation processes such as design thinking , and it is necessary to activate them systematically.The key in all these initiatives is to look for the loopholes through which we can operate, instead of looking at what other people are doing and lamenting that we can’t. If we can’t have a creative room, let’s have a creative box with the same philosophy and bring it to the meeting rooms. And now that we can’t have face-to-face meetings, let’s take them to virtual spaces such as collaborative whiteboards (Mural or Miro type).
With these playful activities we not only increase the possibilities of innovating, but those who participate know each other better, feel better and are activated, so they are also more productive and productive; and if you find yourself obliged to work remotely, then you need to find the corresponding alternatives, even if they are not identical. The approach is “How could I…?” applied to the creative process.
How beer can make you more creative
Creative techniques are not enough. Creative processes are not enough. I have been able to see it live and direct countless times. If you put any ten people in a room and brainstorm ideas, I could predict how original they would be, based on their profiles. If they all look alike, have the same seniority, training and tasks…, it is likely that their proposals are limited to a similar scope, and this does not change in the duration of a one-hour session, or a design thinking process .
The brain generates new ideas by combining elements. If the pieces you have are similar, you will be able to find fewer combinations than if they are numerous and varied. In other words, the more experiences, data, knowledge and insights you have, the more combinations are possible and therefore the more original your ideas can be.
For example, so as not to have to go very far, and within your usual routine –so that it doesn’t take you time–, the next time you go out for a beer, have a drink or have a family reunion, try something different. Whether the first beer is of another brand than usual, or the wine, the water, the starters, the main course or the dessert, it doesn’t matter. “Feed” your curiosity. It can work with new readings, music and walk routes.
If you get in the habit of trying new things every day or every week, you will be giving your neurons new information to process and a new pattern to match. As a personal recommendation, make sure that these new things are legal and do not endanger your personal integrity or that of others!
Resilience needs creativity
For years I have been clear that the world needs a lot of creativity to solve global problems. Now, in addition, we are in a difficult moment for many people and it is time to reinvent themselves at full speed, as individuals and as companies.
In the latest Linkedin Learning 2021 report, resilience takes first place for the most important skill to develop this year. In the text they quote Gemma Leigh Roberts, who explains it this way: “Improving resilience is about creating your advantage at work. […] It’s not just about learning how to cope exceptionally well with challenges, but also learning how to thrive and reach your full potential.”
In other words, resilience is our ability to withstand the storm and reinvent ourselves. Creativity is the basic skill to be able to do it and, play, the safest context to develop it.
Article first published here:
PINO, Begoña. «Creatividad: es momento de la ludorrevolución (#playfulrevolution)». COMeIN [en línea], junio 2021, no. 112. ISSN: 1696-3296. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7238/c.n112.2145