How to convince your boss that we all need play at work

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FrancisFrancis Cholle is an international business consultant, best-selling author, and engaging 
speaker. He helps companies rethink business in ways that conventional strategic management cannot. His clients include global powerhouses across a wide variety of  industries such as beauty, food, luxury, pharmaceuticals, communications, media, and information technology. His extensive studies and experiences in cognitive science, the performing arts, and eastern philosophies have profoundly influenced his consulting practice and approach to working with CEOs and senior executives. In his most recent book, The Intuitive Compass (Wiley-Joss, 2011) Mr. Cholle details his groundbreaking perspective on decision-making and describes how he has helped clients reach unparalleled levels of achievement in their industries.

In recent years, neuroscience research has revealed three key facts that may change forever the way we think about and approach creativity: 

-        Instinct plays a leading role in complex decision-making.

-        Eighty percent of our grey matter is dedicated to non-conscious thought.

-        Imaginative play is one of the most direct means of activating our creativity and problem-solving abilities.

These three discoveries open up unprecedented opportunities for progress, creativity, and efficiency, if we only embrace the instinctual and unconscious aspects of the mind and the randomness and chaos of life.

The uncomfortable part of this is that we are not used to relying on instinct and the unconscious, and we are certainly not used to accepting randomness or chaos.  We are used to seeing life and reality as linear and logical when they aren’t.  Success in modern times means making a leap from seeing the world as we think it operates to seeing how it really operates.  In reality, both life and the whole of the human mind operate in a way that is closer to chaos than to linear order.

 Play is not only essential to our growth and development when we are children and a source of joy throughout our lives, but it is also a largely untapped channel for innovative ideas in the work place.

 Play is essential to the survival of organizations in a complex and fast-changing marketplace, as it is a key factor in creativity and agility.  I have used play to help people become more creative, deal with challenging emotions like self-consciousness or even fear, and regain energy, enthusiasm, and hope when their company was going through difficult times.  Play opens the doors to our deeper creative potential, helping us achieve change and implement innovative solutions.

 To understand how play works, it’s important to understand what it is.  It’s also important to understand what it isn’t.  Play isn’t some reprehensible at-risk behavior that threatens to make slackers of us all.  Western culture, unfortunately, often sees it that way.  Play is perceived to be, at best, a child’s pastime, or an indulgence for the very wealthy or in the worst case, the hallmark of a slacker.  Certainly play does not come across as something that serious people in serious businesses should be doing on a daily basis.  In fact, play isn’t even necessarily perceived to be beneficial for our children.  It is often thought to be more of an at-risk behavior that prevents children from doing more important things.

Dr. Stuart Brown, head of the National Institute for Play, who has extensively researched the functions and purposes of play, believes that one way to overcome negative attitudes toward play is to offer skeptics a view of play that is closer to their comfort zone: the science of play.  He says, “Our experiences indicate the executives require sufficient immersion in the science of play before they understand and value it.  The intellectual and scientific basis of play can provide the understanding—and permission—to deploy new play-based practices in their organizations. But, they must also value the new practices: without a positive play ethic, the climate for innovation is spoken of as important, but is not acted upon.”

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