Corporate attitudes about play-on-the-job vary immensely. But, the knowledge and ethic to support play-based practices that create innovative, problem solving work teams are virtually non-existent in organizations today.
Executives running organizations do not have the information to understand the true nature of play. Even those who have a natural appreciation and temperament for the benefits of play see play and work as separate. Some believe that play is the opposite of work.
- “It would be great if I had more time to play; I can’t in the demanding climate of real work!”
- “Play is good. That’s obvious. So what? I’m here to work”
- “Of course I need to play more. Tell me something I don’t know.
- Tell the stockholders and my CEO, then maybe I’ll be able to play.”
- “Play is for people who are retired or have trust funds. Or both.”
- “Play is for kids.”
Yet science already provides data to show that playful ways of work lead to more creative, adaptable workers and teams. One researcher, Marian Diamond, in her Response of the Brain to Enrichment work describes how “enriched” (read playful) environments powerfully shape the cerebral cortex – the area of the brain where the highest cognitive processing takes place. She concludes “there are measurable benefits to enriching [making playful] an individual’s environment in whatever terms that individual perceives his immediate environment as enriched [i.e., discover practical ways for people to do whatever is playful, joyful to them].”
Demand for workers who understand complexity is increasing. Over 75% of the U.S. work force does information work which requires workers to collaborate with other information workers to make judgments and solve complex issues.
The practices that organizations need to be developing for their increasingly complex information work are those which infuse the state of play into their workers’ attitudes. They need to learn how to do the work of their organizations in a play state.
Our experiences indicate that executives require sufficient immersion in the science of play before they understand and value it. The intellectual and scientific basis of play can provide the understanding – and permission – to deploy new play-based practices in their organizations. But, they must also value the new practices; without a positive play ethic, the climate for innovation is spoken of as important, but is not acted upon.
The NIFP has developed a consultative offering for corporations seeking ways to more effectively access innovation in their operations. Our unique approach, which blends science and evidence-backed data into programs tailored to the specific organization’s context, has not been duplicated anywhere.