Playful Innovation

Playful Innovation by Stephen Hudak

How does a company get the work done while allowing time for play?  The online blog, The Muse, has some unique suggestions to try.[1]  Among them are my favorites:Work is a dirty four-letter word…or so many feel.  Play is another four-letter word…better accepted.  Innovation has, well, it doesn’t matter how many letters it has, what’s important is that Work + Play = Innovation.

  • Surround yourself with Inspiration: Make your work area fun, inviting – make it YOU!  Many companies limit what can be displayed in an open work-setting and suggests doing this on Pinterest where you can go to get reminded and inspired.
  • Ban things: This interesting concept consists of considering words, procedures, etc. that you presently employ and consider the ramifications.  Early in my career a manager asked for a report at the end of the week.  With my travel schedule I used to complete this on Friday afternoon or Saturday. After a few months of religiously doing this and never hearing a word, I stopped.  Time went by and still no word.  I was wasting precious family time on busy-work.
  • Fuel up on creativity: Stop checking your phone and email first thing in the morning. Do something different.  Read something creative, Listen to an inspirational podcast.  Watch a TedTalk.
  • Get out of the office[2]: “Make a habit of stepping outside even if it’s just to walk around the block. As you stroll, make a point to notice things. If you need some discipline on your inspiration hunt, make a game of it and deliberately hunt for things that begin with the letter A on the first day, B the second, and so on. Your mind will start connecting dots between what you see and the problems you left back at the office. That’s the beauty of our subconscious.” This one was too good not to note word-for-word!  Working in a cubicle, an office with no windows, a hotel conference room can stifle creativity.  I’ve been guilty of this numerous times.  I’ve come to the end of a training sessions and realize that with answering questions during breaks and checking email at lunch, I’ve gone an entire day and never stepped outside.  Just a few minutes of fresh air, seeing the sun, hearing the birds, can revive and spark creativity and innovation.

Note the cost of these tips – next to nothing, but the benefits can be astounding to your well-being and the company’s growth.

Work plus Play (2)

In a 2016 lecture titled “In Praise of Boredom”[3], Maria Konnikova tells of a psychological study where students were asked to sit in a room and do absolutely nothing.  They had no cell phones, no technology, nothing – except for a device that provided electric shocks to themselves.  Over half of the students administered shocks to themselves rather than just still for ten minutes.  Technology has made us this way in many aspects.  The prospects of doing nothing can be frightening, especially to the younger generations.

Konnikova notes that the default mode network of our brain becomes incredibly active when we do nothing.  This part of the brain leads to creative insights and thus innovative thoughts are more likely to occur.  She states: “Insight is what happens when we give ourselves time to be bored, time to do nothing.”[4]

The default mode network becomes inactive when we are busy doing various things and when we try to multi-task.  When we do nothing we start thinking, planning, creating.  I carry a small notebook with me wherever I go as ideas often come when I’m sitting at the airport, on a plane, walking to a class, and must be written down before I become busy once again.

Society is making us less tolerant of boredom.  We are constantly bombarded by 24-hour news, social media that sucks us in, makes us angry or leads us away from what we consider important.  When was the last time you say without the television blaring, without your cell phone in your hand, even without a book?

Start today.  Take just five minutes to begin.  Have some paper handy to note your thoughts.  See where your brain takes you.  See what creativity and innovation may arise.  Praise productive boredom.



[1] From:

[2] IBID

[3] From:

[4] IBID

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: