Creativity thrives when you play. But this doesn’t mean you need to build a fancy physical playground. Instead, we should focus on the mental playground: creating the right atmosphere, mindset, and intrinsic motivation to play, and create value along the way.
Every now and then I come across an article about the cool Google offices. Sometimes it is in a design magazine, and sometimes I read it in a tech magazine. And it makes me envy! It is always so colorful and playful. It is inviting. It seems like the perfect environment to nurture creativity. It is dreamlike, and as such, it becomes the dream of many people. So many others try (or at least strive) to imitate it, or even create an even more impressive working space.
Creativity requires a playground. If you want you and your team to be creative, you have to create the right setup to ignite it. But, does that mean you have to create a colorful office with slides, swings, huge cubes, and strange sofas that look like they came out of a comics? Does that mean you have to instruct your interior designer to break all the walls and create a faux bar in the office? Or maybe you have to do the next big thing and create an artificial beach right in the middle of the lobby?
The answer is very simple: No! Creativity thrives when you play. But this doesn’t mean you need to build a fancy physical playground. Instead, we should focus on the mental playground: creating the right atmosphere, mindset, and intrinsic motivation to play, and create value along the way.
So, without further ado, here’s the first draft ever of the Playful Manifesto!
Value Playful Mindset over Physical Playgrounds
Playfulness is a mindset. A physical playground can be a nice extra. It looks great in a magazine, no doubt about that. But being playful is first and foremost a way of seeing and interacting with the world. With the right mindset, you can be playful anywhere. In fact, the world becomes your playground.
Take for example one of the most basic exercises we have in seempli: wherever you are, look around you and capture something smiling.
Don’t look for smiling people. Look for smiling things. Take a photo of each smiling object you find and repeat that exercise throughout the day, wherever you go.
If you managed to do that, you have just turned your surroundings into a playground. It might not be colorful, and it might not find its way into a cool article, but it is an amazing space to play in! In fact, you managed to make the world smile for you, and it has probably made you smile back.
A playful mindset means turning anything into a game. If you have young children, you know exactly what that means: any old box, what you might consider pure junk, can instantly become the coolest thing ever.
What can be more fun than a surprise? Well, assuming it is a good surprise. The problem is we are operating in a world that constantly reminds us how important it is to plan and be prepared. And that’s twice as true when it comes to working environment.
Being playful is being ready for surprises. Being playful is looking for surprises – embracing surprises and enjoying them. Sure, not every surprise at work is one you want to embrace. When an unexpected problem surface on the field in one of your products, you just want it to disappear. But at some level, you can still treat it as “part of the game.” It doesn’t mean you are not taking it seriously, but you can see it as another part of your playground.
Now, don’t go and plan the next crisis just to spice things up.But if and when it will occur, don’t fight it either. As strange as it sounds, you should try to work with it. It just changes a bit your playground or the rules of the game.
And while we are at it, when you are in an “embracing surprises mindset” you will come to realize there are many good surprises you might have missed otherwise: these are your next opportunities.
Play All the Time and not at Specific Times
OK! Drop everything and play for five minutes!
Things are not so simple. Being playful, especially when the goal is boosting creativity, cannot work on call or in a predefined time frame. As being playful is a mindset, it should be present all the time (or at least most of the time). If you manage to perceive the world as your playground, everything becomes an opportunity to play.
Don’t expect planned breaks to do the work. Instead, turn your work into one continuous playful experience.
Playing Together is Better than Playing Alone
Last but not least, playing together is at least twice as fun as playing alone. Create the setup for playing with others, even if each of you seems to have different tasks. The interaction with others is a fertile ground for numerous surprises. And the less trivial (or natural) such an interaction seems to be at first, the greater its potential.
Being creative together is like an improvisation game. If you manage to flow together, listen and respond to others, the result is pure fun and anything but expected. And most important, in many cases, it wouldn’t have been possible if you had worked alone.
Playfulness is essential to creativity. Watch any child playing, and you will realize it in seconds. But as we grow up we need to explicitly invest more in being playful because the environment we operate it might not see it as a natural thing.
Does this mean we need to save time for being playful, invest in a fancy working environment, or avoid the “real” tasks we are committed to do? Absolutely not!
Being playful is a mindset. We can bring this mindset to everything we do (well, most of it anyway). And the immediate result will be a boost to our creativity, which in turn will make us even more playful. It may seem like a kind of magic, but in fact, we are naturally wired to operate and evolve like that.
So, let’s put this in our mission statement: we are going to have FUN!
Using seempli Lidor works with individuals, teams, and organizations seeking to develop, master, and apply creativity.