We’re Not Just Playing Around

Photo by Jerry Wang Unsplash

The thrill of dumping 2020 and starting a new year has us looking for new ways to refresh.  This means refilling our creativity buckets and using a sense of fun and play to get there. Story Mode programs are crazy fun because we believe that playing at work is one of the best ways to open imagination and bust through to true problem solving and opportunity finding.

Play at work

It’s not a newsflash that kids learn from playing. They use their hands to investigate toys and objects in order to develop motor skills and eye-hand coordination. They create pretend worlds and make up stories to learn language and build imagination. There’s quite a bit of research on this topic and several years ago the New York Times did a magazine cover story on the importance of play for children. Of course there’s a TED talk, and we all know the power of play from being a kid ourselves.

If we know that play is so important, why then as adult business professionals do we think we have to stop playing? If you work in an (virtual) office you know there is some invisible line separating work from the rest of life and the work portion is often structured and scheduled. But our brains need unstructured stimulation, time for our imaginations to zigzag in unplanned directions.

I liken it to working out: in order to build muscle, you have to lift that dumbbell enough times to actually tear the muscle fibers so it can repair itself and grow back stronger. It’s called muscle hypertrophy. Maybe our brains need to tear themselves away from email and project reports so they can rebuild and get stronger.

Story Mode is playing around

We love that moment in our workshops when you can feel the group drop the veneer of “work” and just start playing. That’s when the real breakthroughs begin. Back in the days of everyone being in the same room, we often had teams write and act out a fairy tale in order to find the right story for a work pitch or website content. Sounds silly, right? Well, it is. And the more silly teams got, the better the ideas they generated.

If you’ve worked with us, you’ve probably played the Power of 39 and surprised yourself with the realization that yes, I can send that company message in the form of a haiku or teenage diary. Improv of course is the king of using games to sustain interactions and develop active listening skills and we like to take advantage of those exercises too.

Vulnerability is OK

Cindi Perrine, Principal Director and Operations Studio Lead at Accenture (and a Story Mode client) is a bit of an expert when it comes to using games and challenges to invigorate meetings and her team is always finding new ways keep the conversation lively. “Games and play are critical to building effective relationships, now more than ever,” she reminds us.

For her, play in general helps to break down the barriers of geography and job titles to “make us more open to sharing and accepting differing ideas, and feeling more like a team. The willingness to take a small risk like answering a trivia question and getting it wrong gives others an opportunity to support you and demonstrate that vulnerability is OK. This builds trust.”


Old games refreshed for an online world

We’ve been pleasantly surprised at how well and how easily our storytelling games translate to a virtual setting. There are a lot of benefits to folks being at home, everyone in a different space surrounding by different objects and environments. The simple game of inviting each person to grab an object within reach and tell a story about it is a fantastic discussion starter and a great way for team members to make connections.

We keep our imaginations sharp by constantly coming up with new activities to help our clients keep their imaginations sharp. We play the Power of 39 a LOT, simply to get past a block or come up with a title. Once we drew on notecards and took pictures of ourselves for a short video we made. Last week, current events got the better of us so I retreated into coloring pictures of flowers and Beth had her trusty doodling scratch note pad at the ready.

What are you doing to keep your positive attitude and curious mind? Better yet, what are you doing to keep your team energized?



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