My LinkedIn Monday Play column:
Whether as individuals, communities, organisations or societies, humans need to play, in order to keep themselves adapting and responding to the challenges of life.
Regular experiences of play - if we understand play in its fullest sense - can maintain a reserve of optimism, energy and resourcefulness, even in the most demanding and pressured of circumstances.
In my various professional engagements around play - whether keynote, workshop or consultancy - I always begin the same way: by giving participants an account of play based in the latest, cross-disciplinary scholarship on its power and potential.
It’s certainly important to play in a play seminar! But I also feel it’s essential to show participants the science of how important and elemental play is for human flourishing.
From neuroscience to evolutionary biology to systems-theory, there is a general recognition that play - seen as a freely-chosen and joyful exploration of possible options - is vital to the progress and development of any organism (or organisation).
Whether in nature - or in the society and economy - we often accept solutions to problems that are in fact a surrender to convention, rather than the optimal outcome possible. Playful behaviour is a way of probing beyond the obvious endpoint, widening perspectives so that the next, higher peak can be scaled - and perhaps by circuitous means.
Most organisations are aware that they must devote time and resources to establishing a fertile relationship between creativity and innovation - the generation of ideas and insights, and then their application and roll-out in actual situations.
But our playful mammalian natures - life-long and inescapable - lurk at the base of any initiative of this kind. “Getting” play properly will help fuel and sustain programmes of creativity and innovation.
A play understanding makes managers aware of the evolved needs and urges that are raised, and met, by allowing possibility and imagination into the working environment. The challenge is not just to their colleagues - but often to the overall strategic intent and vision of the organisation.
My seminars combine a step-by-step exploration of the sciences and specialisms of play, with a range of carefully-chosen exercises - conceptual and conversational as well as sociable and physical. These are intended to make concrete each stage of our growing knowledge-base on the relations between play, playfulness, creativity and innovation.
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