How play at work can lead to IT innovation
Stuart Brown, the founder of the National Institute for Play, explains why a playful office helps corporate problem-solving and sparks innovation
What is play, compared to brainstorming or innovating?
Play is directed by the player and you’re not anxious or grinding toward some outcome. There’s improvisation potential and it takes you out of time and gives pleasure. It might feel purposeless. Getting into that state opens up a lot of avenues for innovation and creativity, but incorporating play in the workplace is not always easy. It often seems antithetical to productivity and responsibility.
Why should we play at the office?
There’s a sense of exploration, a search for novelty, an engagement. From these outcomes, you see increased mastery and skill, increased perseverance and lots of good byproducts–preparation for the unexpected and flexibility and adaptability when something unforeseen heads your way.
Why don’t more companies encourage play?
The cultural norm says that play is trivial and it’s for kids or for the weekends. That’s an Industrial Revolution heritage that’s tough to change. I don’t think I’ll see the shift in my lifetime, but the neuroscience evidence is piling up that play works. It can be really useful during a merger. Let’s say the cultures are in conflict. One company ethic has been more improvisational and the other is organized around goals. If the employees play with each other, they will understand the heritage and start to look at long-term goals for the company.
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