Do You Play – At Work?

My professional life began in showbiz. First time I got a job in “the real world,” I was in my mid-thirties. Trainer for a Social Services Agency in New York City. And I had this very real fear: What would it be like to work with “these people” in the real world? Showbiz had been a culture of play; was I about to rot in a culture of drudgery?

Surprise! “These people” were fun. Heck, our meetings were a lot more fun than any of the meetings we ever had in my theatre life!

Here’s why. We had 2-hour staff meetings, every 2 weeks. Each meeting began with 15 -20 minutes of structured play-time. This time was non-negotiable. No matter how tired we were, my boss Lynne Hurdle-Price would lead us in a game she pulled from resource books like Games Trainers Play or Games for Grown-Ups. Mind you, these were not polite little brainteasers. No, we got up, left the table, got physical. We had to engage with each other! Each game usually had a teaching point that was relevant to how “we played” with each other at work.

There were days when I simply wasn’t in the mood for “one of Lynne’s games.” But as my colleague Maia Beatty loved to say: “I hate these stupid games, but they really work.” They energized us for the meeting to come. They fostered a culture of playfulness.

Yes, they always worked. I left each meeting with my spirits buoyed!!!

Richard Branson posted a kick-ass article on LinkedIn this week. 6 Tips for Screwing Meetings as Usual. I cherish Mr. Branson. It’s a great read (see the link below). The 10 second précis of his piece: Surprise each other. Subvert conventional meeting etiquette.

You might read Mr. Branson’s piece and think – well, I can’t just bring in a famous reggae artist or fly my team off to my private island. And you may decide that your team isn’t ready just for a bit of “structured play.” Understood. However …

Here are 4 simple tips for subverting any meeting you have and infusing a sense of play:

1. Have toys around. There’s tons of research in the field of Adult Learning that shows how toys help adults to focus and engage.

2. Play energizing music. Music stimulates every part of us – mind, body, spirit. It makes us feel more fully alive!

3. Show a playful movie clip or two. One of Mr. Branson’s tips – in lieu of PowerPoint overkill.

4. Incorporate physical activities. Jumps, yoga stretches, simple group dance moves when you’re on mental overload. Yes, it may get a little silly – and wouldn’t that be just awesome?