Bridging the Gap between Play and Work

In progressive education and even in business management, there’s a good amount of talk about the value of play. Let your people play and they will magically become out of the box thinkers. However, if you don’t help your people connect the dots between what they learned during playtime with the processes they use for real work, then the value of play is lost.

If you want your students to use a new process on a project, teach them how to play and iterate with the process on a project that is light and low-risk. Choose a theme that is fun and one that everyone can relate to. If you want them to learn about business models, ask them to generate 50 different models on the theme of food service. Then reflect on the agility they tapped into during playtime and ask them to draw on that same agility for a real project. When they get stuck on their real project because it’s riskier and scarier, coach them to call up the playful experience to help them push through.

If you want them to learn color theory, have them explore color combinations with a poster project about baby animals. Yes, baby animals. They are so cute and fun and they loosen people up. After playtime, reflect on how they explored color. Then ask them to use what they learned and apply it to a real project, something that they care about. When they get stuck, ask them to conjure up the spirit of play that they tapped into when they were working with baby animals. If you do that, you will help your people carve neural pathways from the play and creativity they used in the low-risk project to the creativity they need to tap into for the real project.

If you want your people to play, you need to help them connect the dots.

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