How play allows us to be more creative

Source: IDEO

Tim Brown is the CEO of innovation and design firm IDEO. Employing a creative concept referred to as “design thinking”, Brown along with founder David Kelley emphasize a style of work that fuses design, business, social studies, and human psychology.

In his TED talk ‘Tales of creativity and play‘, Tim Brown discusses the inherent difficulties of encouraging creativity in the workplace. Brown suggests that trust, more than anything else, allows people to harness their creative faculties. Faced with the dullness of a cubicle office or a workplace brimming with artful spontaneity, most people will choose the latter.

Using IDEO as an example, Brown posits that a trustworthy environment – existence of friendships, familiar surroundings, a high degree of comfortability – allows creative professionals to thrive. Importantly, it should feel authentic.

Most people are quick to shun their playful instincts. Instead of embracing their quirkier side, people choose “professional consistency” over their kid-like playfulness. As a result, organizations that depend on creative thinking are unintentionally stifling the creativity of their employees.

Brown notes how when people, especially adults with an advanced understanding of the world, experience new things they have a tendency to categorize them into neat compartments. “I suspect that evolutionary biologists have a reason why we want to categorize everything very, very quickly” Brown says. “Kids are more engaged with open possibilities,” he continues “this openness is the beginning of exploratory play”and a primary reason why children are consistently creative.

At the same time, Brown recognizes the need for limits. “Play is not anarchy” Brown says. People are not expected to turn their offices upside down. But “it turns out that we need rules to help us break the old rules and norms” that might prevent us from tapping into our more creative impulses. It requires a rethinking of play as constructive and ultimately beneficial to our professional lives.

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