TED on Play

I am spending some cycles these days thinking on the integration of play and work. I happen to believe that there is some real magic to be had here for organizations and for firms looking to supply the next generation of software.   Sure making work a game seems a bit out there (I get that), and I guess I could go back to thinking about RSS and Twitter, but I think that is pretty well covered by a host of others.   Knowing my current fascination with this topic, Jake passed along this TED talk by Stuart Brown:

Although I agree whole heartily with the message, and his story about the wild polar bear playing with huskies is incredible (watch it just for that), the section on the integration of play into our adulthood was sorely lacking in actionable information.  We are told the diagnosis (“Play is important to everyone”), but are abruptly kicked out of the hospital without any treatment and a draft from the back of our robe.  To be fair, Stuart did share some work done in his class on play at Stanford that endeavored to connect play with adult work life.  The short video showed how his  students  would “re-invent” the meeting.

As the video rolled, I was hoping for something incredible, and unfortunately was left feeling frustrated.   The idea presented by the students was to put on full body white painters overalls and then use dry erase markers to keep notes on each other during the meeting.   Sure, set to music and fast motion editing, it seems fun, but I think it hurts our cause more than helping it.   No “serious” executive will ever see that as anything but a waste of time.  In fact, no one that works anywhere, at any level, would see this as valuable.  I am sure it was fun to do, but if we want to make any inroads we simply cannot ignore the firm footing “getting something done” has in the mindset of the modern worker.

To give credit where it is due, they are at least trying.  Just because we do not have a great solution today, does not mean that the problem does not exist.  The imbalance of play and purpose that most people feel at work cannot be ignored.  These are just the crude early efforts.  My sense is that we will have to take smaller, bite size approaches of integrating play with work for it to be effective, but that does not mean that more ambitious concepts like the one presented at Stanford will not provide the fodder for more practical initiatives.

In my next post I will give a practical example of how I think play can be integrated with a product management role inside a company.  Stay tuned.

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Cross Posted to GameTheMachine

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a.k.a.:ppedrazzi

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