Why leaders need to PLAY! more

speaker Annemarie Steen
I was recently speaking at JCI (Junior Chamber International) Nordic Conference in Tallinn, Estonia. The audience: 600 young entrepreneurial minds of 8 Nordic European Countries. My topic: Why Leaders need to PLAY! more.

Creating a positive company culture where leaders give themselves and their employees a Licence to Play (like Google, Ideo, Zappos, Virgin and Mindvalley) are more profitable, creative, resilient and attractive to talent and customers than their industry peers.

So why not more companies adopt a more Positive and Playful Culture?

The problem. The existing Paradigm: Work and Play don’t go together and are seen as opposites. Because of this, working hard, stressful and long hours is valued over laughter and play. Play is something that is trivial, childish and something you’re only allowed to do in your private time (like sports, singing, dancing, goofing around with friends, playing with your kids, etc). This paradigm was already taught to us in school at a very young age. There is a time for play during recess, and there is a time for learning and work in the classroom (what later on became the office). We have been taught to play the Game of Seriousness and behave like ‘serious’ adults, or else…

The result. This has installed a fear/shame on being playful as an adult, especially in business environments and public spaces.

The solution. Shifting the paradigm, not only by showing succesful companies who are doing it already, but to invite business leaders to experience the power of play for themselves. I love to facilitate CEO Playdays 😉 In my own experience, once I adress the fear and invite leaders to ‘do it anyway’ (in a safe learningspace), a powerful energy is released; Joy, laughter, connectedness and creativity are the immediate result.

And what happens next…

Courageous leaders who are willing to give it a try in their own business!

Playfully yours,

Annemarie Steen

For more updates and resources on playfulness in biz, you’re welcome to follow www.facebook.com/licensetoplay

 

Does your company have a Licence to Play?

playful officeWhen you look at outperforming companies like Google, Zappos, Virgin, South West Airlines and Mindvalley (Malaysia), there’s one thing they have in common. They invite and promote playful behaviour of their staff. Why? Because they know that playfulness is the fastest way to create openness, connectedness, collaboration and creativity; attributes that are needed now more than ever to create innovative products and memorable customer experiences. And their numbers show that it pays off in profits.

Still, work and play are seen as opposites in most companies. In my work as a facilitator of Playfulness and Playful Learning in business, I see that most adults have a huge fear of playing. Play is seen as something childish, not done, crazy, non serious and only permitted among good friends or on the sportsfield. What would happen if companies would invite play to the workfloor, allowing it, or even better; promote it!

More and more research is showing that bringing positive energy in organizations leads to more flexibility and better results in a complex environment.

spelen kantoor

So how do you get the people in your organization to play more? I developed a brand new learning concept: Licence to Play. A three month program for a selected group of people; the most suitable ones for becoming a positive leader and secret change agent.

Interested to learn more about this Play inducing program?

Contact me for a secret meeting…J

With playful greetings,

Annemarie Steen

annemarie@steentrain.nl

Branding Fun: The Rise of Playfulness at Work

Proud of my first international published article that I wrote for www.sparksheet.com an international online magazine with thinkpieces about media & marketing.

We’re used to seeing work and play as opposites. But adding a little playfulness to the workplace makes for more creative employees and more attractive brands, explains Dutch creative consultant Annemarie Steen.

An indoor bike lane at a Google office in the Netherlands. Image via Google.

Here in the Netherlands I see a lot of companies struggling with the question of how to maintain a stable and successful brand in a time of crisis. The old-school way of thinking is to look for every opportunity to cut costs, and at the same time direct attention to maintaining or growing existing business.

Most of the time this results in working harder, instead of working smarter, and feelings of fear and insecurity leading to bad decision-making.

For instance, many brands are cutting costs on fun team-building activities because they’re seen as cost centres. But adding playfulness to the corporate culture is vital for doing business successfully, especially in these difficult times.

Look at companies who are doing very well, such as Coca-Cola, Zappos, Google, Virgin and Southwest Airlines. What they have in common is a strong focus on a positive company culture that makes room for freedom, creativity and the well-being of their employees. And this clearly rubs off on the outside world in the form of healthy profits and loyal customers.

Playfulness inside and out

You have probably seen the videos of the Coca-Cola Happiness Factory or theHug Me vending machine, because playfulness has a way of going viral. But adding playfulness to your marketing strategy without incorporating the value of playfulness into your culture won’t get you very far.

Zappos staff boasting their threads on “Ugly Holiday Sweater Day” at Zappos headquarters.

As Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, writes in his book, Delivering Happiness, “You have to build a culture first, then your brand and profits will follow.” Indeed, one of Zappo’s 10 core values is “to create fun and a little weirdness.” They even have a CHO (Chief Happiness Officer).

Having fun is also something Southwest Airlines is famous for. You can check out the airline’s rapping flight attendants and passenger toilet paper races on YouTube. When hiring, Southwest actively seeks out applicants with a sense of humour.

“Caring for customers starts with caring for your own people,” explains President Emerita of Southwest Colleen Barrett in her book, Lead with LUV (co-written with Ken Blanchard). “What’s important is the fact that you’re honouring people and acknowledging that what they do makes a positive difference. In the process, you are making heroes out of them.”

Play and creativity

Children have a natural ability to play and have fun. It’s a very important tool for learning and connecting to those around us. But somewhere along the way to adulthood, we’re taught to be serious.

Southwest employees getting playful at a corporate event. Image via Southwest’s Facebook page.

Playfulness, fun and laughter are necessary antidotes to our daily stresses. Scientific research confirms that laughter relaxes the body, lowers our stress hormones, and increases the level of happy hormones like endorphins.

When we add fun and playfulness to our daily work, it stimulates our right brain, which is what enables us to be creative and see the big picture.

Creativity is what enables us to come up with innovative products, services and solutions that serve our customers and, ultimately, generate revenue.

It’s time for brands to stop seeing play as a time suck and start seeing it as a necessary ingredient for success – not only in their marketing campaigns, but in building a creative and constructive culture from the inside out.

Want to play?