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Adaptors and Innovators at Mindful Play

When we play, we create fresh and new meanings expressing our creativity. The deep connection between free playing, learning and creativity has been studied by researchers such as Csikszentmihalyi (2008) and Bruce (2005) and also by the LEGO Learning Institute (2010). As Bruce has noted, the nature of play is an active process that is intrinsically motivated.

During play, players explore alternative worlds through imagination which can lift their creativity to their highest levels of functioning. Creative activities enable players to demonstrate mastery or competence they have developed from previous experiences which may include struggles, manipulations and exploration. It is during these activities that they get a chance to reflect and become aware of what they know. The significance of play is that it provides a powerful mechanism to bring together what we have learned and to generate insights for future.

Both children and adults play in solitary or partnership mode. They often play to break from established methods and conventions, in order to experiment inside a rich world of imagination and to push themselves to find new frontiers. More and more companies are using playful learning as a desirable approach to simulate alternative realities and future scenarios in order to accelerate their product, process and business model innovations.

For example, many companies use the Lego Serious Play method to develop new business strategies and guiding principles. It is used as a structured and voluntary activity that involves and stimulates the imagination of problem solvers. With time and space as constraints, and structured by rules and conventions, participants draw on elements of fantasy and creative imagination to explore guiding principles of strategy development [See: The Science of Lego Serious Play (2006)]. Other examples of games often used by corporations include the Beer Distribution Game from MIT Sloan School of Management [Sterman (1989)] that simulates the supply chain optimization and the Manufacturing Game by Ledet and Paich (1994) that simulates the plant operations, as well as a range of other commercial and noncommercial business simulations and games.

Csikszentmihalyi (2008) introduced the idea of the link between creativity and a state of “flow.” According to Csikszentmihalyi, flow is the experience of being enjoyably immersed in a challenging task. These moments occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something both difficult and worthwhile. This is the essence of playful learning.

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By Dr. Phil Samuel and Dr. Michael Ohler