The word “play” brings to mind visions such as toddlers and elementary age children partaking in various fun activities in parks, middle school students participating in a game of tag in Gym class, and high school athletes engaging in a Friday night football match-up. The idea of “play” is typically associated with youth age individuals, and almost always seen as an activity done to pass time. Research has shown that play is not only good for adults as well, it a great way to encourage and maintain creativity and balance in the life of individuals who are past the child stage of life (Keen, 2010).
Hallowell (2011) writes, that by designating a time to play, out of a standard 40-50 hour workweek, an individual can begin to see the importance of a playtime, and the positive affect it can have on stress levels, and joy the employee feels in his place of work (p. 126). By simply taking two hours out of the workday to play guitar and sing, an individual can escape the boundaries of work, and essentially reality, and enter into a time of recharging. An employee can sit and sing songs they are familiar with as they play guitar, or they can write songs that reflect the thoughts and personality of the individual. During this playtime, the employee is free of any specified duties, and they are allowed to spend the time redirecting all emotions, attitudes, and feelings into the music they are singing. Within the first hour, the employee begins to feel the stress flow out, as rejuvenating begins to take place. After the two hour session, the stresses that seemed to inundate every thought has been whisked away, and feelings of refreshment and joy have taken its place.
By utilizing “playtime” to play guitar and write songs, the individual has cultivated the creativity process. Brown (2008) explains that one of the major benefits from playing at work is a continuous improvement of the creativity process. Brown’s research has proven that the more creative the employee is, the greater their output/production, which leads to not only a successful day in the office for the employee, but success for the organization overall (Brown, 2008).
This idea can also help with team building in the workplace. If multiple employees sit down and write a song during a two hour playtime, not only are they building bonds between them, together they are encouraging (and cultivating) creativity by emphasizing the intrinsic benefits of cooperation (Nass & Yen, 2012).
Play was originally intended for people of all ages. In his video, Brown (2008) displays a picture, which was painted in the Fifteenth Century, of playtime taking place. Within the picture, the majority of individuals having fun and playing are adults. In looking at the painting, it is obvious that play was important for adults, as well as children, to have a well-rounded and balanced life and mindset. Brown also explains how individuals, through play, can overcome a less than stellar background (Brown, 2008).
Play allows creativity to flow, which allows the individual to explore backwards, as far as they can go, and begin to build an emotion to that feeling, thus enriching life, no matter what environment they were raised. It is worth noting that during this time of creativity, it is the right brain that is being used, and not the left brain as previously thought (Keen, 2010). Although logic and critical thinking are characteristics typically associated with the left side of the brain, it is the right side of the brain that houses intuition and creativity. Through this form of transformational types for play, an individual can better their health, career, and life overall.
Literally all working environments can benefit from a designated playtime. From schools to churches, and from auto-shops to law offices, organizations that allow their employees a time to play, either individually or in teams, will reap the reward in the area of creativity and productivity. Brunson and Marryman (2010) discuss how schools in Europe, and other areas of the world, seem to be ahead of the United States in test scores, and one of the main reasons for that is a strategy that utilizes creativity over assessment testing. This strategy does not just have to be limited to students. Teachers could utilize the cultivation of creativity, which can be done through team activities, and individual practice. The song writing example could be utilized in school staff development meetings to initiate team building, but more importantly, to stimulate creativity in the workplace. This creativity through play will benefit the individual staff members, the teaching teams, and the school as an organizational whole.
Bronson, P.; Merryman, A. (2010). The creativity crisis. Retrieved from: http://www.newsweek.com/creativity-crisis-74665
Brown, S. (May, 2008). Stuart Brown: Play is more than just fun
Hallowell, E. M. (2011). Shine: Using brain science to get the best from your people. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.
Keen, A. (June 4, 2010). Daniel Pink on how the 21st century brain affects creativity
. Retrieved from: http://blogs.hbr.org/2010/06/daniel-pink-on-how-the-the-21s/
Nass, C.; Yen, C. (2012). The man who lied to his laptop. New York, NY: Penguin Group Inc.
Robinson, K. (2011). Out of our minds: Learning to be creative. West Sussex, UK: Capstone Publishing Ltd.
By Mitchell Collin Fairchild