Innovation is Child's Play!

I just read an article by Mike Mitchell, president of Mitchell Innovation and Research, discussing the advantages of "playing" when it comes to driving innovation.  Given his permission, I would like to share some excerpts of his article with you:

"Imagine this:  a group of business executives gather in the grand ball room of a posh resort to play a child's game of musical chairs.  Boardroom demeanor soon turns to childlike scurrying as they rush to capture the few remaining chairs when the music stops.  Laughter erupts as the VP of finance finds himself on the outs and has to take a seat on the sidelines.  Victors congratulate each other with high fives while fierce competitors plot the next move that will guarantee them a chair when the music resumes.

"Is this another example of corporate types wasting time at shareholders' expense?  Are these executives out of touch with the serious business of achieving sales and profit goals?  Hardly.

"Perhaps they have discovered the value of play as a driver of creativity and innovation.  Innovation will help maintain their organization's competitive edge and will push it into a successful future.

"Numerous studies have linked play to creativity and innovation.  Playtime pays back big time in the game of innovation.  It is rocket fuel for creativity.  The value of play at work includes:

Play activates the right brain:  The contribution of this type of thinking is critical to the imagination and thus the development of new ideas.

Play builds teamwork:  Playtime can be practice ground for how to work together to come up with innovative ideas and putting those ideas into practice.

Play breaks down defenses:  When defenses are down, ideas and solutions to vexing problems have the space to bubble up.

Play creates engagement:  Doing nothing but work at work turns people into drones and machines - a dangerous recipe for creating boredom and disengagement.  Having some fun at work keeps employees engaged.  When people are engaged, they care.  When people care about their organization, they naturally want to improve it.  From their efforts to improve the organization come innovative new ideas and solutions.

I have not recently engaged in a conversation about innovation without Google coming into play, (no pun intended).  In researching their culture, they clearly subscribe to the tenets mentioned above:

"Our corporate headquarters, fondly nicknamed the Googleplex, is located in Mountain View, California. Today it's one of our many offices around the globe. While our offices are not identical, they tend to share some essential elements. Here are a few things you might see in a Google workspace:

  • Local expressions of each location, from a mural in Buenos Aires to ski gondolas in Zurich, showcasing each office's region and personality.
  • Bicycles or scooters for efficient travel between meetings; dogs; lava lamps; massage chairs; large inflatable balls.
  • Googlers sharing cubes, yurts and huddle rooms – and very few solo offices.
  • Laptops everywhere – standard issue for mobile coding, email on the go and note-taking.
  • Foosball, pool tables, volleyball courts, assorted video games, pianos, ping pong tables, and gyms that offer yoga and dance classes.
  • Grassroots employee groups for all interests, like meditation, film, wine tasting and salsa dancing.
  • Healthy lunches and dinners for all staff at a variety of cafés.
  • Break rooms packed with a variety of snacks and drinks to keep Googlers going."
Hard to argue the point, eh?

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