Play in a “Serious” Environment

Play is essential for development. There is a wealth of information about this especially for childhood development.

  1. Cognitive Development: Play contributes to the cognitive well-being of children and youth. It stimulates their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength¹.
  2. Physical Development: Active play is crucial for physical development and health. It helps children build strong bones and muscles, control their body, and maintain a healthy weight¹.
  3. Social and Emotional Development: Play is an opportunity to promote the social-emotional well-being of children and youth. It allows children to interact with the world around them, helping them to build new competencies that lead to enhanced confidence and the resiliency they will need to face future challenges².
  4. Language and Self-regulation Skills: Play with parents and peers is a singular opportunity to promote language and self-regulation skills that build executive function and a prosocial brain².

(1) The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and ….
(2) The Power of Play: A Pediatric Role in Enhancing Development in Young ….

Serious Play

The issue is, that the word “Play” doesn’t tend to go down well in a “serious” environment – such as work.

I recently found myself feeling like I needed to justify my use of the word play when speaking with a client. I said something like “Once we have finished, you can go and play with this yourself”

It suddenly occurred to me that the client may have found the use of the word “play”, as very childish. So I stopped and offered a definition that I mentally use when I say Play (which I do a lot!!)

Play simply means to experiment and learn in a safe environment

When kids play, they do so in an environment where they feel free of inhibitions and so they try out ideas, devoid of the fear of external punishment if they fail. That doesn’t mean they are safe ideas though. Climbing higher in a tree has inherent dangers – but every mistake leads to learning (within reason!!).

And so it is in business. We learn mostly from doing but, are often scared of failing. So we need safe environments to play. Developers very rarely work directly on live production code. They play in a development/pre-production environment first. Here they can experiment, test ideas and feel confident their code will be good long before it touches the live environment.

How can you provide similar safe, playful environments for every job or every type of person?

It’s not easy, but the Ludic Spirt framework and the Player Types can help a little (Take the test people!!)

The key is to make people feel safe to push the boundaries and be bold and brave!

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