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

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

Are Estonians Happy?

Previously I wrote a blogpost “The two faces of Estonians” about my experience with Estonian people. They tend to believe, that they are a very serious and more introvert type of people, especially when at work. In their private life and at weekend parties they dare to show their other, more playful side.

Happy in TallinnRecently I was invited by some Happy Estonians to help them make a Happy in Tallinn music video from Pharrell Williams’ hit song, after making a Happy in Eindhoven one in my own hometown. It was my role to invite the people to dance and act playful to the music while we were filming. Sometimes a bit shy at first but quickly loosening up to the music, we shot the video in two amazing days. The video was released 3 weeks ago and already got almost 20.000 views.

Some of the reactions of Estonians to the video were;

These are not real Estonian people, these are actors and it is fake. We don’t show our happiness this openly.

For me I see this as a big compliment. Apparently I was capable of bringing their playful side out in front of the camera. And I’m very proud of the result. I know for a fact that Estonians are Happy! They just need a little bit of encouragement to show it…But then again; don’t we all?

Enjoy the video:

With playful greetings,
Annemarie Steen

You’re more than welcome to get updates on my projects and resources about playfulness and playful learning by following my facebookpage.

Playful learning Leadership

“We don’t learn from experience, We learn from reflecting upon our experience.”  (Thiagi)

'LeadereshipAs a guest lecturer at the Academy for Creative Industries in Tilburg, Netherlands, I was recently asked to deliver an Advanced Course on Leadership to students. The students expected a course with lots of theoretical information in a more lecture style of teaching, with maybe some role-play exercises. What I did was very different. I got them up to Playfully interact with each other in simple Applied Improv Games & Playful Learning Exercises. This was initially not received with great enthusiasm but definitely woke them up in the morning.

In the debrief after each playful exercise the students were invited to give meaning to their experience and connect this meaning to insights about leadership skills, thus creating awareness and ideas for improvement.

Last week I received this review of my course. Proud and confident that my way of teaching is reaching the hearts and minds of these young people.

I was happily surprised to find out what this course was about. I had different expectations and thought that the course would be more about dry subjects and a more theoretical approach. At first, my reaction to the training (dancing etc.) was honestly “oh god, not this hippie stuff”. But as we progressed I could see the meaning behind every exercise and saw that it was actually great for learning some skills and getting insight on the matter. Letting the students come to these insights on their own by experiencing it, is in my perspective way better than just telling us or letting us read it out of a book. Also, letting us choose our own subjects and leaders to write about and making it personal, was a great way to keep it interesting and getting more out the theories rather than just reading. I would like to use the experience from this course to improve my public speaking skills and when I am ever in a position of leadership again, reflect back on this course and see if I’m following some of the rules that were stated here as good leadership. What I liked about this course, is that you looked for personal improvement and reading the message in our papers, rather than being too anal and tripping over every wrong interpretation of the theoretical aspect. It is my opinion, that you learn way more from this approach and make it entertaining, while motivating the students to progress. If I’d have to think of something that could be improved, is changing the day and hour on which this course is given on a weekly basis. While I doubt that having way more people in each class would be an improvement for the learning experience of each individual, I feel everyone should experience this course. Especially if this course, which is also mostly about personal growth, could replace the heavily overvalued and mandatory course of Creativity & Personality. Excuse my frustration, I needed to get that off my chest. This course was a great learning experience and I hope many students after me will be able to experience this as well.

With Playful greetings,

Annemarie Steen

You’re welcome to stay updated with my projects and resources on playfulness & playful learning by following my facebookpage

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

For more updates on Playfulness & Playful Learning, follow my Facebookpage

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