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

Setting goals doesn’t work for me, I like surprises better

Do you sometimes feel you need to know more clearly what it is that you want?

goalsettingYesterday I attended a little festival for self-employed people like me. My business is doing very well and assignments come easily without much effort. At the same time I have difficulty explaining to others what it is what I do, because it’s so diverse. One day it’s facilitating sessions on innovation, the other day it’s speaking about the importance of play for a large audience, or coaching 1 person, or organizing an event, or doing educational design for working with elderly people, or teaching Leadership to MBA students, or do a fun workshop with improv theatre or laughter yoga or be an energizer at conferences. My work comes from and through people that know me and I feel very lucky in this position where I don’t have to actively search for clients.

I have a strong sense of purpose (inviting adults to play more) but often I feel that I need to become more clear on my goals or more specific on my targetgroup etc. So, at the festival I attended a session on setting strategic goals for your business and attach daily actions towards that goal. It made me feel stressed immediately and at the same time I thought it made sense to be more clear on my goals and taking deliberate actions towards them.

This morning I went for a walk and thought about this. And then I came to an interesting insight. The reason why I don’t exactly know what I want, is because I like surprises better. Setting strategic goals and work hard for them is like going to a shop and just buy the thing that you want. I love getting presents (from the universe) and after I unwrap them come to the conclusion: WOW, you know me really well, because this is exactly what I want without even asking for it.!!

When I look back on my life. The best moments were those that took me by surprise and felt like a huge present. So I think I like to fool myself in believing that I don’t know what I want (ofcourse I do on a deeper subconscious level), to experience the process of surprise. So yes, I think it’s good to think about your goals in a broad sense, but not be too specific about them, to allow space for those surprises that really feel good. And then when these opportunities knock on your door, just to say YES, let’s do it.

Playfully yours,

Annemarie Steen

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

 

How I got to speak at TEDx

For 3 years I had a dream of speaking at TED or a TEDx event. Last month I got my 15 minutes of stage at TEDxTallaght in Dublin. Some people ask me how I got in…and here’s my answer. More and more TEDx events invite speakers to send in their idea, either in text or in a short video. So did TEDxTallaght. Here’s the little video that I made that got me in 🙂

I can highly recommend using Imaginative Play for whatever goal you have in your life. It may take 3 years before it becomes reality…in the end you can say; I did it anyway 😉

Annemarie Steen

PS Having a good friend (thank you Padraig) close to the organizing committee also had a positive influence on the decision.

You’re more than welcome to join my Licence to Play community for inspiration and resources on playfulness & playful learning.

Click on “What happens when you press Play” to see the actual TEDx talk

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

My personal experience doing a TEDx talk (in Dublin)

Annemarie Steen at TEDxTallaght

One day before my TED talk at TEDxTallaght in Dublin I was visiting a local pub. An alcoholic toothless guy (his name was Dan), came up to me and asked me “Where are you from?” And ofcourse I replied with “I’m from The Netherlands, I live in Eindhoven area”. And I asked him the same question: “Where are you from?” And his reply was: “Earth”. I laughed and we started talking. He said “the moment we say where we are from, we distinct ourselves from others, while the earth is such a tiny place in the total universe”. And I thought he’s absolutely right. We are all earthlings.

Last minute, I changed the start of my TED talk based on this idea and my starting sentence became: Hello, my fellow earthlings 😉

Later in our conversation he said: “So you PLAY with people all around the world, AND get paid for it? That sounds like the best job in the world!” And I replied with a big smile: YES!

My biggest fear was that my time (15 min) was too limited to tell my story AND get the audience up and invite them to leave their comfortzone (Play is something very scary for adults) and enter their playzone. Play is an experience product. I invited the audience to experience  5 different types of play; object play, imaginative/pretend play, movement play, creative play and social play. And looking at the faces…it went gr8! (pictures by @rocshot)

tedxtallaght

tedxtallaghttedxtallaght

Now, it’s waiting for the video to be released…(3-4 weeks).

If you want to have the first look…you’re welcome to follow/like myfacebookpage.

Wish you a playful day!

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 😉

For updates and resources on Playfulness & Playful Learning, you’re welcome to follow (like) my Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/licensetoplay

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

Playing with children, adults and Michael Gove: An interview with Patrick Bateson

Patrick Bateson recently published his book “Play, Playfulness, Creativity & Innovaton”, a scientifc approach to understand how these are connected. Here’s an article of an interview from Dana Smith with Bateson.

Originally posted on Brain Study:

I’ve got a new piece up today on King’s Review of an interview I conducted with Cambridge professor of ethology Sir Patrick Bateson. Professor Bateson has a fascinating new book on the benefits of play and playfulness, and how these traits can help us develop creativity, innovation and flexible thinking.

I discuss the book with Professor Bateson, as well as branching into the effects reforms in education are having on our brains and behaviors, and how too much school may actually be harming children today.

And finally, the question everyone’s been wondering, do those ping-pong tables in new-age offices really offer any sort of benefits? Read the article to find out!

Playing with children, adults and Michael Gove: An interview with Patrick Bateson.

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Alan Watts on The Playful Universe

Some time ago I came across the work of Alan Watts, an English philosopher, author and speaker (who died in 1973, when I was just 2 years old). His vision on Play, Playfulness, the Universe & our Education system in this lecture are still very powerful and mindchanging.  I like to share with you a video that I found on Youtube, adding images (and dutch subtitles) to his words.

Here’s the transcript of this talk:

Existence, the physical universe, is basically playful. There is no necessity for it whatsoever. It isn’t going anywhere. It doesn’t have a destination that it ought to arrive at. But it is best understood by analogy with music, because music, as an art form, is essentially playful. We say you play the piano, you don’t’ work the piano. Why? Music differs from, say, travel. When you travel you’re trying to get somewhere. And, of course, we, being a very compulsive and purposive culture, are busy getting everywhere faster and faster until we eliminate the distance between places…what happens as a result of that is the two ends of your journey became the same place. You eliminate the distance, you eliminate the journey. The fun of the journey is travel, not to obliterate travel. So then, in music, one doesn’t make the end of a composition the point of the composition. If so, the best conductors would be those who played fastest and there would be composers who only wrote finales. People would go to a concert just to hear one crackling chord because that’s the end! Same way with dancing. You don’t aim at a particular spot in the room because that’s where you will arrive. The whole point of dancing is the dance. But we don’t see that as something brought by our education into our everyday conduct. We have a system of schooling which gives a completely different impression. It’s all graded and what we do is put the child into the corridor of this grade system with a kind of, “Come on, kitty, kitty,” and you go to kindergarten and that’s a great thing because when you finish that you get into first grade…then you’ve got high school, and it’s revving up, the thing is coming, then you’re going to go to college…you go out to join the world, then you get into some racket where you’re selling insurance, and they’ve got that quota to make, and by god you’re going to make that, and all the time the thing is coming, it’s coming! It’s coming! That great thing. The success you’re working for. Then you wake up one day about 40 years old and you say, “My god, I’ve arrived. I’m there.” And you don’t feel very different from what you’ve always felt and there’s a slight letdown because you feel there’s a hoax. And there was a hoax! A dreadful hoax. They made you miss everything by expectation…we’ve cheated ourselves the whole way down the line. We thought of life by analogy with a journey, a pilgrimage, which had a serious purpose at the end and the thing was to get to that end, success or whatever it is, maybe heaven after you’re dead. But we missed the point the whole way along. It was a musical thing and you were supposed to sing or to dance while the music was being played.”