If you’ve never seen Tim Brown’s talk on serious play it’s a must watch. Besides demonstrating some brilliant interactive speaking techniques, Tim makes a cogent argument for why play is so important to any creative organization.
Play gets people comfortable and relaxed with one another. When we play we lose our tendency toward conservative thinking. We take more chances. We muster up the courage to share our most outrageous thinking. Fear dissipates; better ideas materialize.
In the still developing world of digital communications this matters more than ever. Creative ideas, big and small, are no longer the result of a cozy partnership between a writer and an art director who’ve spent years working with each other, who are comfortable floating crazy concepts even when they’re only half developed, and who are totally unfettered by the frequent, “that sucks,” they get in response.
That level of comfort, enjoyed by so many two person creative teams, is harder to achieve the bigger the team gets. And today, with the new complexities of digital, the typical creative team is as likely to include developers, programmers, UX specialists and social media thinkers as it is a writer and art director. That’s a lot of people in the room. Yet it’s possible that the best, the boldest, the biggest creative idea could come from the social media guy, or even the UX person. If they’re comfortable enough with each other to speak their minds and take a chance. Need help? You can always study what Pixar, Google and Ideo do. You could also get yourself a good ping pong table. But the real opportunity is to make play part of your culture.
On a separate but related note are the findings of noted surgeon and author Atul Gawande. In his latest book The Checklist Manifesto (trust me you should read anything he ever writes) he chronicles the advantages of a simple check list (like don’t forget to have pints of blood in the operating room) that includes the most obvious, “make sure that the operating team introduces themselves to each other.”
Hard to imagine that the doctors and nurses about to cut you open while you’re anaesthetized don’t know each other’s names, but it turns out they often don’t. Yet if they introduce themselves to each other before the operation begins, there’s a 30 percent decrease in mishaps. Why? The simple act of talking to one another before the operation gives people the courage to speak up if they see something go wrong.
Want to make your organization a little more creative? Want to encourage more risks? Then remember to play. Preferably with people whose names you actually know. Does your company play or have other aspects to its culture that inspired creativity? Please share.