Playtime and Innovation, Part 2

In human evolution there are many manifestations about the importance of play, because it’s what enables the individual to discover new approaches to deal with the world. In fact, the most creative individuals often exhibit great playfulness. Many theories suggest that experiences, skills, problem-solving abilities and knowledge needed for serious purposes later in life, are actively acquired or enhanced through playful engagement with the environment when we are kids. Versatility, flexibility and creativity in adulthood are causally linked to play earlier in life. The implication being that while we’re all in the serious business of Business, we should perhaps take a step back and explore a playful approach when thinking about innovation.

Many of us will acknowledge the importance of the creative ability to find novel solutions and that it has had significant impact for our ancestors until today, in terms of surviving, reproducing and evolving our world. Also in our context today, the survival of business organizations is closely related to their emphasis on playfulness, and hence creativity in the organization, company culture and for their employees. This means to be ready to use more flexible and open approaches , which is something that traditionally companies may not be used to. These companies typically feel safer promoting standard tools and rigid methods to avoid risk and reduce uncertainty by leaning on inflexible processes, gates and so on. However, today it is known that many companies that use these rigid, inflexible approaches to solving problems develop seemingly good solutions that turn out, in practice, to be of little value.

Today’s organizations need to create new situations, and a particular kind of positive mood because this mindset, culture, and approach can be especially beneficial in affecting creativity and aid in the generation of novel ideas that can be transformed into innovation. Organizations won’t be able to convince their best people to take risks if it entails a possible cost to their careers. Similarly, employees are unlikely to expose themselves to being chastised for trying to develop new approaches that are more flexible and open. The “playing mood” is a good solution that facilitates the creation of special environments and behaviors. Successful organizations have recognized that they need to tolerate and support differences among employees, and they are encouraging a company culture which allows an environment for time to play, to break established patterns and to combine actions and thoughts in new ways. These companies know that play is an effective mechanism for encouraging creativity and consequently facilitating innovation.

Play involves a certain type of mood and state of mind; a special experience generally outside our normal behaviors and environments, beyond roles and expertise, a kind of “lack of inhibition” situation that open our minds. The power of play is this special “playful mood” that can be a powerful driver for making creativity and innovation happens because play involves braking normal rules. From play emerges a new perspective, a source for producing new ideas. Play is also a “cognitive tool” that provides flexibility, collaboration, novelty and openness, while creating a sense of inclusion, where people share meaning with one another. It is a strategic tool that can be used at any time to solve a new challenge, to unleash creativity.



Published by gavinjohnston67

Take an ex-chef who’s now a full-fledge anthropologist and set him free to conduct qualitative research, ethnography, brand positioning, strategy and sociolinguistics studies and you have Gavin. He is committed to understand design and business problems by looking at them through an anthropological lens. He believes deeply in turning research findings into actionable results that provide solid business strategies and design ideas. It's not an insight until you do something with it. With over 18 years of experience in strategy, research, and communications, he has done research worldwide for a diverse set of clients within retail, legal, banking, automotive, telecommunications, health care and consumer products industries.

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