Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Playing for survival

This is a great blog written by my colleague in Canada, Jacquie Llyod Smith. A very useful insight into why play is so vitally important in creating the right climate for innovation and on-going creativity.

Playing for Survival

In his book “Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul”, Stuart Brown, M.D., explains that not only have scientist proven that play is needed and used within the animal kingdom for survival, but that play allows the player to gain new insights, test new behaviours, and develop new strategies. John Byers, an animal play scholar speculates that during play our brain is actually making sense of itself though simulation and testing. In landmark research conducted by Marian Diamond in 1960, concluded that play has an important role in brain development, and it is not just the act of playing but the interaction of playing with ideas within an enriched environment, that term enriched environment speaks to the interplay between people and ideas.

Diamond discovered play is one of the most advanced methods that nature has developed for the complex brain to create itself. Within the business world, Strategic Play™ allows us the opportunity to imagine new possibilities and situations that never existed before, and most importantly can create to make the future better. This occurs during the process of play as the brain experiences rapid growth and neurons connect, disconnect and reconnect as the brain organizes information and learns. The process of play helps the brain to develop and prepare for the unexpected and create conscious and subconscious contingency plans that are agile and ready to adapt to the changing business landscape.

In today’s business world the idea of play for plays sake or for developing strategic thinking is not really acceptable. The game of golf, which is a stage of play called “games with rules”, has been referred to as the “green corporate board room” and this does seem to be an acceptable way for adult business people to play. After spending four hours together they can assess if their colleague cheats or embellishes and the players may emerge with a new sense of who the other player is based on their interpretation or respect for the rules.

But when we dig deeper into an element of play which is referred to as “making things” we can see many inventions that we use today actually came from the pure act of play. The airplane and the steam engine were first toys, and wind-up toys lead to the development of the clock. Fireworks came before the cannon and so we can see the act of playing with things for amusement has often lead to the development of useful things.

It is also clear the brain can not benefit from play when it’s faced with immediate danger and must react in order to survive. So it is also clear for Strategic Play™ to work and be of great benefit, organizations must build play and playful opportunities into their daily activities, systems and processes. And for Strategic Play to be of maximum benefit, scenarios must be tested randomly – there is no point for the manager to play out a situation that he has already experienced and has decided upon the answer or path forward. In fact the randomness of play is needed for full maximum learning and as such the Strategic Play™ facilitator leads the players through a process needed to fully maximize from the benefits of Strategic Play™.

These are some reasons why Lloyd Smith Solutions (www.lloydsmith.com) uses Strategic Play™ and why we see the value of play at work – this is the beginning of a play movement and we will continue to bring new ideas to this blog that we can all play with together.

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