Why innovation can’t do without PLAY

workshopfixadWe live in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world. And the rate of change is growing exponentially. The old ways of management by planning and control are no longer sufficient. A lot of organizations have a growing awareness of this and a growing feeling of unease about possible threads to the continuity of their business. It is clear that we need other skills and -mindsets to thrive in this VUCA world. Creativity, adaptivity, collaboration, experimentation, empowerment and courage to challenge the status quo to name a few.

So how might we shift organizational cultures from the old to the new?

I believe in “Being the change you want to see” (Ghandi). So being creative, adaptive, collaborative, curious, bold and courageous. But how do you do that…?

The good news is that we as humans already have these skills and mindsets needed. The only thing is that we have unlearned/covered them since our early childhood to adulthood. The answer lies in our ability to PLAY. Because when we PLAY…

  1. we don’t take ourselves too seriously and allow for mistakes to happen
  2. we learn by doing and reflecting upon our experience
  3. we are more creative
  4. we are in the present moment and able to make fast decisions
  5. we are more connected to others and build on each others ideas
  6. we are more courageous and daring to step out of our comfortzone
  7. we are engaged in what we do while having fun

So change and creating a culture of innovation can be surprisingly fun when we allow ourselves more playfulness in our workplaces and designprocesses.

Have a playful day!

About the author: Annemarie Steen is a key-note speaker, playful learning designer and facilitator for innovation and creative leadership in business schools and organizations world wide. You can connect to her via www.steentrain.com/contact

Play, Playfulness & Playful Learning

What’s the difference or relation between Play, Playfulness & Playful Learning?

I’ll try to explain how I see it (at this moment).

violinPlay is an act, something that we (can) do. We can play with objects, play a game, play tennis or the violin, play a role, etc. Scholars say that Play has these following traits; “PLAY must be intrinsically motivated, you must be free to play (it has no utilitarian function), you don’t know the outcome, it is outside your ordinary life and it must be fun.” (Gwen Gordon)

play, playfulness bookPlayfulness on the other hand is not an act, but rather something that we are. It’s (as Bernie deKoven mentiones) inherited. It’s in our nature to be playful. And nature in itself is playful (Alan Watts). Bateson describes Playfulness as a positive moodstate, from where the act of playful play starts. It’s this moodstate that we see in young children much more often than in adults, who are told to act serious instead of playful. Only when we are really happy, in love or a bit typsy on alcohol, we cannot hide our playfulness anymore. It breaks through the surface of ‘behaving’ and reveiles itself as a force of our nature. No doubts: We ARE playful.

Some Play-practicioners, like Bernie de Koven, choose the path of purposeless play in the sense that pure play shouldn’t have a purpose or goal. It’s the act of play itself that’s fun and rewarding.

In Playful Learning things are a bit different. Learning games and experiences are designed to meet certain learning objectives. So it’s not play in itself that’s the goal, but the learningobjective is. In this case, Playful Learning is a mean towards reaching a desired outcome. This in itself seems to contradict with the ‘you don’t know the outcome’ of play.

I am passionate about Play AND Learning. So I develop playful experiences connected to objectives that are important to my clients. For example, a client asked me to deliver training to improve their performance at a businessfair. I designed games and exercises to raise awareness about groupenergy, connecting to strangers using status, collaboration, daring to ask for an order, etc. The client was surprised and delighted at how effective the team worked together (just after 2 sessions of 0,5 day) and delivered a peakperformance.

For me the learning that comes out of the playful exercises is more natural and much more powerful and longerlasting than traditional training. The participants are invited to make sense of their personal experiences, thus creating individual learning with possibly very different outcomes for different people. It’s teachless teaching in the sense that I don’t teach knowledge. I create playful experiences and invite my participants to make some sense out of them. And they find out: There’s sense in non-sense!

I also create Play Missions that don’t have any other purpose than to just enjoy doing them. And by doing them uplifting the energy of the player (and it’s surroundings).

So I haven’t yet made up my mind to what category of Play-practicioners I belong to. The ones that see pure Play as a goal in itself, or the ones that see Play as a mean towards reaching a goal. I play both 🙂

With playful greetings,
Annemarie Steen
Playfulness & Playful Learning

Visualizing my ideas using fun software

I love to try and learn new things. So I tried this fun software Powtoon to visualize my ideas in a short animated videomessage. It was fun to do. I’m curious what you think of it.

 

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)?

<iframe width=”640″ height=”360″ src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/94JOvMyhL_Y?rel=0&amp;controls=0&amp;showinfo=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

Carnaval; Feast of Playfulness.

Hi,
I just finished celebrating three days of Carnaval in Eindhoven (south of Holland). I always bring along my little friend ‘Snooze’ the monkey, who I fall in love with every carnaval, because of his funny face.

I can make him sing, dance and speak with my hand, but often it feels like he has a mind of his own. For me my monkey is my metaphor for celebrating carnaval. It’s a feast of playfulness and fun. Ofcourse there’s also a lot of alcohol involved, but I believe that’s because people like to loose some of their daily inhibitions. With carnaval I see a lot of people laugh, play, have fun, show their love and make connections to other people very easily. Playfulness opens up people. Playfulness connects. They allow themselves for a short time to be like children again. And that’s why I love carnaval. Also because it’s so closely connected to my daily work as a Playful Learning facilitator.

Snooze is taking a bath today. He can’t wait untill next year.

With Playful greetings,

Annemarie Steen

My experience with Serious Lego Play

Last friday I attented a festival called ‘Let’s Play Innovation’ in The Netherlands, about the link between Playfulness and Innovation. Very interesting day with lots of Playshops to get a taste of different methods and insights of Playful Learning.

In the morning, I participated in a Serious Lego Play workshop. We were asked to build a bridge with for each participant the same set of Lego. The outcomes were as different as people can differ. Then we were asked to make a model from instructions. I enjoyed trying to get it right as fast as possible. Then we were asked to change our fixed model into something else that looked like a mother in law from hell. Now we really got into it (although my real Mother in Law is more of an Angel). Our creative minds were triggered. Giving meaning to our models in explaining the different bits and parts created mental attachment to our model. Even more so, when we were asked to make a personal model of ‘Serious Play’, the theme of the day. Here’s mine:

serious play

The swing represents Playfulness. It can be hanged anywhere, at home, in business, with friends. And being on the swing with others makes it even more fun and connecting. A swing is fun, as long as it’s in motion. So if you get stuck, find playfulness to get you unstuck…something like that.

Talking about our models of ‘Serious Play’with my group deepened our conversation and understanding of eachothers point of view. And because we played together, I felt closer to my groupmembers than to other people in the room. Play connects (but that I already knew).

With Playful greetings,

Annemarie Steen

If we don’t learn to fail, we fail to learn

Hi,

fail

The favorite game of my three years old daughter is catch me. This means that she will run away and I have to catch her. Full of energy and with laughter she will start running. Looking over her shoulder regularly to see if I’m following. Sometimes she deliberately slows down, so I can catch her, and she will scream with delight. It’s much more fun to ‘loose’ and get caught, than win all the time and never be caught.

When I teach managers playful learning, a lot of them are trying very hard to get it right and feel like they have failed when the outcome of the game is different than expected. They focus on winning (or not losing) so much, that they get tense and stressed while playing. But in playfulness there is no desired best answer. Every outcome is valuable, depending on the meaning you are willing to give to it. Once they get that and give themselves permission to play and ‘fail’, a lot of positive energy is generated. And that’s when the real learning starts…because

“If we don’t learn to fail, we fail to learn”

So where, when and why did we loose our natural playfulness?

With enthusiasm,

Annemarie Steen

I’m afraid, but I’m gonna do it anyway…UHM!

Hi,

In my work as a facilitator of playful learning(*), I meet a lot of different people. The ones that are enthusiastic from the start and willing to try everything immediately. The ones that are a little shy and hesitant, but after some reassurance they will try, and the ones that say NO from the start. I notice a lot of limiting believes about being playful that’s holding them back. Recognize any of these? Playfulness is childish, ít’s crazy, it’s ok in sports, but not in business, etc.

Getting the benefits and learninginsights from Playful Learning is not something you can learn from a book. It’s an experience. So therefore it’s vital that I get my participants to leave their comfortzone and join the exercises. And from my experience, 99% of my participants do…and respond with high energy and powerful learninginsights.

So how do I do it? Here are some strategies I use.

First it is important that the participants get the WHY of Playfulness.

So, I often start with explaining the difference between left and right brain functions. I show them that succesful businesses nowadays are using their creative right brain capacities to innovate, to use design, storytelling, play, empathy and meaning.  Then I ask them to leave their logical, analytical left brain quiet for a while and invite them on an experiential journey to experience their right brain.

right left brain

If the group is very leftbrain orientated (technical people), I sometimes use Steve Jobs’ “Stay Hungry, stay Foolish” or quotes from Einstein.

After the introduction of the WHY Playfulness is important, I tell them that it’s natural to feel fear. Doing something out of the ordinary is ‘out of comfortzone’. Sometimes I share a story from my personal experience with an experiment that I conducted on a busstation at 7.00 am in the morning. I handed out 80 free blowing bubble sets to waiting travellers. A lot of them reacted with fear.

In order to deal with the fear, I often show my participants this video. In this clip you see that fear is causing you to take a step back. The way how to deal with the fear, is to reverse this initial tendency and take a step forward.

Finally, I teach the participants a mantra: I’m afraid, but I’m gonna do it anyway…UHM (with the UHM we all take the necesary step forward). It creates fun and commitment, and as soon as someone is holding back, I can refer to the ‘I’m afraid’ mantra and invite them to do it anyway.

frog

And then we start seriously playing and learning 🙂

With Playful greetings,

Annemarie Steen

(*) In the Netherlandswww.steentrain.nl, International with www.ha-p.com

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)

 

Storytelling, great tool for selfdiscovery and reinvention

Last week I attented a 5 day online seminar on storytelling (www.reinventionsummit.com), with 4 hours of interviews with expertspeakers a day, and the possibility of online chatting with up to 99 other participants from all around the world. This was my first online seminar and found it to be very interesting. #lovenewtechnology

The biggest insight I got, was that The more personal your story is, the more universal it becomes.

Succesfull speakers, bloggers and online personalities shared their moments of truth. And when they decided to throw down their ‘perfect’ masks and dared to really show their authentic selves, their fears, their pain, their frustration, it was the beginning of their successtory. Apparantly we want to read and hear stories we can relate to on a personal level.

Another thing that I found interesting was, that most people think that they don’t have very dramatic stories to tell. Well, Life is dramatic, so we all have stories! (maybe you’ve become used to the drama in your life so much, that it feels normal to you).

The title of the seminar was Reinvention Summit. So what does storytelling have to do with reinvention? Well, if you review your own life’s experiences for stories, they are all about selfdiscovery and reinventing yourself. Your life’s themes are to be found in your experiences, insights & stories.

Ofcourse reviewing your life for these kind of (sometimes very hard, painful of shameful) experiences, can be challenging and it takes a lot of guts to share them with others. Ofcourse, you don’t have to. But I believe it’s worth the effort of exploring them and telling them (or writing them down) at least to yourself.

So what’s your story?

With enthusiasm,

Annemarie Steen