Tag Archives: creativity

Playing at work: professionals’ conceptions of the functions of play on organizational creativity. 

I finally submitted my first article to a cool peer-reviewed journal. Excitedly waiting the reviewers response…

Playing at work: professionals’ conceptions of the
functions of play on organizational creativity. 

Samuel West, Eva Hoff, Ingegerd Carlsson
Department of Psychology, Lund University

The notions of creativity consultants on how play promotes workplace creativity was investigated. Play is often used by creativity trainers to promote creative performance. Seventeen experienced professionals were interviewed. The informants considered play to facilitate group creativity by increasing the openness, intrinsic motivation and collaboration. Play was discouraged by a stressful, fun-phobic organization and when play was non-voluntary. Play was encouraged by permission to play, that leaders demonstrated playfulness, a certain degree of structure and that the activity was matched to the group. The use of competition and seriousness in play was controversial. A tentative model of play for organizational creativity was developed.

Key words: play, playfulness, innovation, organizational creativity, creativity training

What promotes play at work?

Here are some more yet-to-be-published points from my first study of play in the workplace, and more specifically how play is used to promote creativity in the workplace. Many organizational leaders would like to have a more playful work environment, but cannot think of any other way of doing so than to introduce “casual Friday” or other similarly lame ideas. Oh, and a ping pong table in the company cafeteria isn’t going to do much good either. It is not that these ideas are inherently bad, it is mostly that these ideas of play are the leaders ideas of play. And since one of the defining criteria of play is that it is completely voluntary, then forcing employees to do the boss’s idea of play is not ever going to result in anything other than resistance. So, what is a organizational leader to do if he or she wants to make an effort to boost their organization’s playfulness?

Well, it is actually quite simple. Be playful yourself, frequently demonstrate your playfulness, and give employees explicit and implicit permission to play. This is probably the single most effective way to increase playfulness amongst your employees. It is not about telling people to play in a certain way, but rather about encouraging people to bring out their own playfulness in all its various forms.

In my interviews of organizational consultants who use play in their work, all of them stressed the importance of leaders giving ‘the permission to play,’ as well as leaders setting the example. The permission can be both instructions and direct encouragement of play at work. Last week I happened to spot a colorful sign for employees posted in the kitchen at a cafe at the Copenhagen Airport. Amongst the other points like “give good customer service”, “clean hands” was “have a playful attitude, it makes work more fun.” Another way to give the permission to play, is let the physical context signal that this is a creative and playful workplace. It could be some unusual furniture, funny looking lamps, weird decorations, purposely uncomfortable conference room, childish candy… etc etc. Anything that signals, we take our work seriously, but not ourselves too seriously.

What about the less playful, chronically serious employees who never smile and think work is a severely sober place? There is no way to lure out the playfulness of a non-playful individual, it will never work. Ever. They just don’t have it in them. However a work environment that promotes play by implicit and explicit permission along with organizational leaders setting the example by demonstrating their own playfulness will allow the more playful individual’s playfulness to bloom!

From Ridiculous to Brilliant: Why We Play at Work

During one of my semi-regular sessions of searching for new input on play at work or play for creativity I found this talk:

‘The American workplace might be better off if it borrowed some concepts from a typical kindergarten classroom, including bins with toys, and unstructured time with friends. Two partners from IDEO, a global power in design and branding, discuss the importance of play in their creative process, and offer techniques that other organizations could profit from.’

Link to MIT lecture on play for creativity


Peacocks, Picasso… the effects of romantic motives on creativity

I just read an interesting article on the possible evolutionary function of creativity. In a series of experiments researchers at Arizona State University tested if people were more creative if they were primed for sex. »For men, any cue designed to activate a short-term (academia for a one night stand) or a long-term mating goal (academia for more sex) increased creative displays.« So when men first got to view sexy women and thought they might get sex, they boosted up their displays of creativity, and it didn’t matter how little or how much sex was being offered. Women however only increased their creativity when they thought they had a chance of getting a trustworthy long-term partner that their friends liked.

Science is fun!

TL;DR: Creativity is all about getting sex.

Peacocks, Picasso, and Parental Investment: The Effects of Romanitic Motives on Creativity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 2006.




Isabel Behncke: Evolution’s gift of play, from bonobo apes to humans

A new TED-talk!!!!  A short talk about how Bonobo apes play (a lot of sex!) and how that might be linked to creativity and building the social fabric of life. It is only 7 minutes  – watch it now!

Bonobos are, together with chimpanzees, our living closest relatives; however we know very little about them — mostly through captive work. In Wamba, a most remote jungle location, I have observed unique aspects of bonobo lives (from imaginary play and laughter to inter-group encounters to accidents and death) that challenge and illuminate our understanding of human evolution. I aim to link the play of adult bonobos to insights on human laughter, joy, creativity and our capacity for wonder and exploration.