By Annemarie Steen October 18, 2013

Annemarie SteenLast week I was invited to Estonia (by Parnu Konverentsid) to speak at a Leadership Conference about Playfulness in Business. Estonia is a very nice country, one of the three Baltic States in the North East of Europe. As big (or as small) as The Netherlands, but with 12x less inhabitants. They have a beautiful medieval capital Tallinn and a lot of nature. In Europe they do relatively well.

In the few days that I spend there, I encountered the two faces of Estonians. Their serious, polite and introvert behaviour when they are in a business setting. And their playful, sparkling, more open behaviour when they are having a party, especially the younger generation. Maybe not surprising when you understand that the younger generation was born in a free Estonia and their parents lived many years under an illegal occupation from the Soviet Union (1940-1991). So, when I told some people my plans of doing an interactive speech for the 300 businessleaders, where I would invite them to PLAY, they looked at me in disbelief and wished me “Good Luck”.

leadershipSo there I was, my heart pounding in my chest when I was announced onto the stage. Standing on the stage, with the plan of starting with blowing bubbles, I realized that I had accidentally dropped part of my blowing bubble on my way. I had to quickly improvise and get a new one of one of the tables of the audience. In a way this saved me, because when you’re improvising you’re in the moment, and that’s exactly where you should be during a speech. From there it went really well. Explaining why I believe Playfulness in Business could help them perform better, creating more openness, connectedness, collaboration and creativity. Attributes that are needed to cope with today’s VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex & Ambiguous) World. Then came the moment of truth, inviting the audience to different kinds of PLAY, like movement play, social play and creative play with a few short ‘Play Missions’.

What happened was, was what happens everywhere. Once people feel that they get the permission or the Licence to Play, they enjoy themselves immensely. Their eyes begin to sparkle. It’s because Play is in our nature. Play connects us and Play is pure Joy.

So for me this was a Mission Accomplished!

Now back home in The Netherlands. I feel that I will return many times to this charming country and it’s very nice people. Special Thanks to Toomas Tamsar, the man who had faith in me, without ever seeing me speak before 🙂

Playful greetings,

Annemarie Steen

(*) photos taken by Urmas Kamdron

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