In elementary school, kids learn through play. They use blocks to build, yarn to measure, clay to form, and paint to create. And they come up with some pretty cool stuff.
But why does this learning through play stop in grade school? Where colorful classrooms get converted to stark white walls and scented markers get replaced by textbooks so heavy your kid may just topple over.
And what about your workplace? Maybe your job is to create a new product or re-engineer a service. You’re expected to do this while you sit in your cubicle or if you’re lucky a brainstorming session in the (yawn) conference room. (But maybe there’ll be donuts).
Adults and older kids lose the ability to learn through play because they’re no longer in an environment of trust. When you’re in elementary school, you haven’t yet been tainted by caring about what other people think. You are provided an environment to get your hands dirty. Make a mess. And you might even learn something while you’re doing it.
But as we get older, we do care what others think. We are no longer surrounded by an environment of trust. We are afraid to be our best creative self because we might be negatively judged. What will my coworkers think if my idea is too far-fetched? If it’s a bit out-of-the-box?
At Outsource Marketing, our #1 value is to have FUN. If we are no longer having fun in our jobs, then something is wrong and it’s time to reevaluate. We may not have a slide in our office (although we’ve talked about a pole) but we try to keep things light and playful. Encourage walking meetings. Ring cowbells when something big has happened. Bring a fluffy dog in for some therapy. Go bowling. Simply build an environment of trust through playfulness. We haven’t perfected playfulness yet – but we’re working on it.
I encourage everyone to watch this TED Talk video, “Tales of creativity and play” from designer and CEO Tim Brown. Tim discusses building trust through playful exploration, playful building and role playing. I think all industries could benefit from his ideas.
Don’t be afraid to let loose. You aren’t too old to play with Playdoh or construction paper. You might even come up with the next great big idea.