Annemarie Steen I TEDx Tallaght I What happens when you press PLAY

From Playing the Game of Seriousness, it’s now time for playing a different game: The Game of SeriousLESS…and to allow and welcome our authentic and playful selves to come back to the surface. Not only at home, but especially at work. Besides the fact that this will increase our mental health and sense of well-being, it will also bring us vital lifeskills to deal with today’s fast changing and complex world.

You’re welcome to join my playful community to get updates, inspiration and resources on Playfulness & Playful Learning.

Playfully yours,

Annemarie Steen

The Hero’s Journey – Making money doing what you love

Proud to be one of the Hero’s in this months issue of “The Hero’s Journey” by Peter de Kuster.

With enthusiasm, Annemarie Steen 😉

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Explosion of Happy video’s on youtube…and I couldn’t resist making one too.

Happy in Eindhoven1682 video’s from 142 countries! (at this moment) Have a look at this impressivelist of cities that have done a Happy video clip on the hit song “Happy” from Pharrell Williams.

When I looked at this list two months ago, I say that Eindhoven, my city was not in the list. And I decided to be the one to change that fact. Why? Because I love to see people playful, spontaneous, a little crazy and daring to step out of their comfort zone. And this seemed to be the perfect chance to invite them to do just that. So, I started afacebookgroup and invited people of my hometown to join the project. I asked them on what special location in Eindhoven they wanted to have their 30sec ‘of fame’ to do a little dance. A week before the shoot I made a planning of all locations and posted this on the group.

The day itself (April 19th) everything went awesome. We were lucky to have perfect weather, everybody was at their locations in time, all very happy, some even rehearsing with a large group of friends they brought along. The youngest was 5 years old, the oldest 88! We (Me, Mike with his videocamera and Aikjewith her photo camera) were shooting from 10am until 9pm, visiting 15 different locations. I was also very lucky to find a sponsor for the editing, because I have no expertise in that area. Ad Mulders did a gr8 job.

And here’s the end result! Enjoy!

When your city is not in the list (yet), I can highly recommend to make one yourself. You get a lot of happy vibes from doing it. Good luck!

Playful Greetings,

Annemarie Steen

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Hospitality Industry struggles with Experience Economy

When we travel, we all have hotelexperienceto sleep. Why are we prepared to pay € 25 for a night sleep in a hostel, € 50 for a bed & breakfast, € 100 for a three star hotel and € 500 for an exclusive hotel? Where we choose to sleep differs and varies with our travelpurpose (business, holiday, romantic weekend), our budget and our previous experience or reviews from friends or total strangers on a website. This is in a nutshell what the Experience Economy (Pine & Gilmore, 1999) is. We are prepared to pay a higher price when the added value and experience is perceived to be higher. “We are on the threshold, say authors Pine and Gilmore, of the Experience Economy, a new economic era in which all businesses must orchestrate memorable events for their customers.”

wow experienceBut when do we become loyal clients that come back? And when do we become ambassadors for a hotel or restaurant and tell our friends about our experience? Only when the reality is perceived better than what we expected to get. Only when we got the WOW-Experience. And this is where the struggle for high end luxury hotels and restaurants begins. The expectations are allready very high when the guest comes in. Ofcourse a hotelguest of a luxury hotel will expect to get a spacious room that’s superclean, with a nice view, well designed interiors, good and various choices of food, a beautiful spa and swimmingpool and friendly and professional staff. So, what will give him this extra memorable experience? Is it a well orchestrated show with lights and music, an unexpected flashmob of dancing staff, a singing waiter on rollerblades? I don’t think so.

I believe the Hospitality Industry focusses too much on design and concepts. Ofcourse I was stunned with the view on top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore, the first time I saw the 150m wide infinity pool, but will this experience bring me back the next time? No, I don’t believe so. So what will?

real-fake smileIt’s connecting with the people and the atmosphere that they bring into the hotel that makes the difference. And with connecting I don’t mean the professional and helpful smile I get when I ask a question. It’s connecting from heart-to-heart. From one human being to another. Sharing a joke or a laugh, a concerned look when you share that your child is sick at home. The singing waiter can be a memorable experience to come back for, if the singing waiter is genuinely enjoying what he’s doing, radiating with fun and connecting to others, in stead of doing a daily routine like the pianoplayer in the lobby. I believe orchestrating experiences to deliver something new, only lasts for a short time and doesn’t create the loyal guest that returns and returns. We all know and feel that a theatre play is not real, however nicely performed. Or are you the kind of person that likes to see the same show over and over again? It’s fake or real that makes a the difference. Can you tell the difference between a real and fake smile in the picture? (Pine & Gilmore also realized this when they wrote their other book “Authenticity”, 2007)

Still, stafftraining for Hospitality Industry is often focussing on doing things right and in the same (our) way. A very logical left brain way of doing things. This results in professionalism with a bit of a distance, easy to measure and control,but leaving very little room for acting out of the box.

So how to get this genuine personal touch into the picture?

Work on well-being, happiness and playfulness with your staff. Playful Training will allow them to open up, connect with others from their own selves and dare to come up with creative ideas to engage with the guests in new and memorable ways that come from their hearts.

Let me hear what you think.

Playfully yours,

Annemarie Steen (Playful Facilitator & Speaker of 21st century Leadership Skills)

Look what happened after a two day Joy-Care Leadership workshop that I delivered with www.ha-p.com for the management of Marina Bay Sands Hotel Singapore. A few participants dared to take the initiative of organizing this ‘Coffee Break Dance’ where colleagues share the fun of leaving their comfortzone. Do you think the laughter is fake (orchestrated) or genuine (from the heart)?

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How my quest for Playfulness began…

high wire“Play is not the opposite of Work. Play is the opposite of Depression.” (Brian Sutton-Smith)

A lucid dream came to me in my late twenties, when undergoing a holistic massage during a phase of burnout in my career as a corporate sales- and managementtrainer. Here’s what I saw; I am standing way up high in a circustent. Feeling very nervous about the thing I am about to do. I have told the people that I will make the pass on the high wire, ofcourse without a safetynet (who needs a safetynet!). I see the people far below me stretching their necks to look up to me. I do make it to the other end, sweating and exhausted from anxiety. When I am on the other side, I get this moment of deep insight. I recognize my constant and stressful struggle to raise the bar to attract attention and distant admiration from others. I now feel strongly, that I don’t want this anymore. It is costing me too much energy and not delivering me the real connection to others that I long for. I suddenly realize that I want to go on a swing instead, being able to look other people directly and on a same level in the eyes, and have some relaxing FUN.

serious playThe first thing I did was to pick up my love for acting, so I joined an Improvisationgroup in Eindhoven (Netherlands). Improvisation learned me a lot about being in a playful state and our weekly training did me very well. I felt happier, more connected to myself and others, more creative and resilient. And today (almost ten years later) I’m still having this weekly dose of Playful Fun.

It was not untill 2010 that I thought of making a connection between my work as a corporate trainer and my actingexperience with improvisation. When I attented my first Applied Improvisation Network Conference, it felt like I was coming home at last. Since then, a lot of wonderful things have happened. My quest for Playfulness is leading me to bringing Playfulness (and it’s benefits) to the workplace.

With Playful greetings,

Annemarie Steen

(Annemarie Steen is working as a playful learning designer & facilitator)

Wonderful pictures in Steve McCurry’s blog

Wonderful pictures in Steve McCurry’s blog of people Playing. Love it!

Originally posted on Steve McCurry’s Blog:

ETHIOPIA-10152

It is a happy talent to know how to play.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

FIJI-10001

Creative people are curious, flexible, persistent, and independent with a
tremendous spirit of adventure and a love of play.
– Henri Matisse

TIBET-11024

The true object of all human life is play.
– G. K. Chesterton

CHINA-10140

 

AFGHN-10195

 

INDIA-11305

 

CAMBODIA-10118

Men do not quit playing because they grow old;
they grow old because they quit playing.

– Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

TIBET-10799

 

INDIA-10801

Play is the exultation of the possible.
– Martin Buber

INDIA-10749

A child loves his play, not because it’s easy,
but because it’s hard.
– Benjamin Spock

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People tend to forget that play is serious.
– David Hockney

AFGHN-12441

 

INDIA-10717

In play a child always behaves beyond his average age, above his daily behavior.
In play it is as though he were a head taller…

View original 195 more words

Serious Play for slumkids in India

Hi,

I came across a short video from a non-profit organization Magic Bus India, that allows slumchildren in India to play and learn essential life skills while playing fun games and sports.
This particular exercise opens the discussion with the children about obstacles they face when they want to go to school. It’s a perfect example of the power of Playful Experiential Learning. First there’s an explanation of the game, then after they played the game, they are invited to reflect on the experience and from that they gain insights. From the insights, they choose their (different) actions in real life. The results of these programs are that a lot more children are going to school, feel much better about themselves and are better teamplayers. I wish more of our educationsystem would adopt this kind of learning.

With playful greetings,
Annemarie Steen
http://www.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?

What childhood dream is still present in your daily life?

When I was a child, I remember watching an animated childrensprogram on tv. It was about a pelican with a big mouth. Whenever there was a problem, he carried everything he needed in his beak. I found this a facinating thought and decided to create something alike. From a carton box I built sort of a robotsuit for myself, with my arms sticking out. In the suit I would put all kinds of handy stuff to carry with me, like scissors, tape, rope, pens, paper, extra cloths, something to eat, etc. I felt I could deal with every possible situation that would occur and that felt very good (ignoring the fact that walking around in a box looks a bit silly).

In high school I bought my first hiking backpack, and often it was just standing in my room, packed and ready to go. When I was 17, I made my first independent of my parents trip with my cousin, to France & Spain. This went very well and a year later we went to Egypt and Israël. Since then, I loved to travel with my backpack, sometimes for months at a time. Everything I needed was in my backpack, and that felt good.

A couple of years ago I bought my dreamcar, an old Mercedes Campervan (1983). In it, two double beds (after doing some rearranging), a little fridge, cooking possibility, even a small toilet/shower space, lots of little cupboards to put in my handy stuff and clothing in, and best of all, I can drive it to wherever I like. Eventhough I bump my head regularly, it is very small livingspace for 3 people (my family) and the car starts to seriously show rusty signes of old age…I feel totally happy with it. I can carry around all the stuff that I need to deal with every possible situation…like my childhood cartonrobotbox.

What childhooddream is still present in your daily life?

With enthusiasm,

Annemarie

Benefits of playful laughter, “Fake it, till you make it!”

ImageHi,

Yesterday I facilitated a Laughtersession for a group of 25 people from a mental/ healthcare institution. I did this as my alterego, Yamuna. I started the session with explaining how Laughter Yoga started with (Yamuna’s uncle) Dr. Madan Kataria from Mumbai India in 1995. As a physisian he believes in the benefits of laughter for your health (both physiological and psychological), so he decided in 1995 to start a laughterclub with some friends in a park in Mumbai. After a few get togethers, they ran out of jokes, so they didn’t have something to laugh about. Then, they decided they would laugh anyway for no reason at all. And they felt equally good after the session.

What Dr. Madan and his friends discovered was, that by starting to laugh for no reason in a group, soon it turned into real laughter. So the saying goes: FAKE IT, FAKE IT, till you MAKE IT!

Scientific research confirms that the body doesn’t know the difference between real and fake laughter. So when you start to laugh for no reason, your body will send signals to your brain, telling your brain you’re in a good mood, and your brain will tell your system to start producing the hormones endorphine and dopamine (which make you feel good) and reduce your stresshormones cortisol and adrenaline. Also laughter will increase vascular bood flow and oxygenation of the blood, increase memory and learning and improve alertness & creativity.

Now, over 600 laughterclubs are active around the world and they have developed many playful laughterexercises. Many of them can be found on the internet and youtube.

The most fun part of facilitating this group for me was, that I invite people to leave their comfortzone and join me in very playful exercises. The best moment was, when I asked the question of “Who knows a nice way of greeting people?”. One woman spontaneously blurted out “touching noses”, and immediately reacted shy; “oops, did I actually say that?” So we invented a “touching noses” laughter exercise on the spot and the whole group joined in. Watching the people having fun and joining in, making the woman’s ‘blurt’ an important contribution to the group, made me feel totally happy. After Yamuna was gone, Annemarie reflected with the group on their experience. They felt less inhibited, more open, more space, energized, relaxed, closer connected to eachother and tired in a good (after exercise) way.

When I ask myself why this moment gives my the greatest pleasure, it is because it touches my personal mission, which is (for now…it’s an ongoing proces):

To inspire people to leave their comfortzone (where learning & growth takes place) by sharing my experience & knowledge and by creating playful & meaningful learningexperiences.

With playful greetings,

Annemarie Steen (& Yamuna)

PS If you want to laugh with me…send me a message and we’ll set up a meeting (on- or offline)