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Are you ready to play?

Play for engagement…

Have you ever been to the supermarket, and ridden on the back of a trolley? Have you ever gone for a walk and wanted to leap frog the bollard on the pavement, rather than just walk on by? Have you ever skipped a little, and jumped when you are telling someone an exciting story, or some good news?
And yes, I am talking to you, an adult!

There is one episode of Friends (important cultural reference for me!) where Phoebe and Rachel go for a run. After one time out together Rachel says she doesn’t want to do it anymore and fakes an ankle injury. She is embarrassed by how Phoebe runs: ‘Me. I’m more free y’know? I run like I did when I was a kid, cause that’s the only way it’s fun. Y’know, I mean didn’t you ever run so fast you thought your legs were gonna fall off? Y’know, like when you were like running towards the swings or running away from Satan?’ Phoebe

After being called up-tight, Rachel does run again and doesn’t worry about what she looks like- she then runs in to a horse, falls, gets up and carries on. As an adult, we can care too much about what we look like, get stuck in a world of right or wrong and in business we become fearful of making mistakes and looking silly. I am interested in how play changes the way people work together, and I often ask the people I work with- What childlike characteristic would you like to keep in to adulthood?

We learn through play when we’re younger and I know it can have a huge impact on how we build relationships, communicate, develop ideas, solve problems and form strategies even as an adult.
The type of play I work with is spontaneous movement play, it makes people active in their learning, and the experience allows people to take in more and remember more.

Top ten reasons your team needs to play:

  1. Play is about the team, and the people who are involved. It doesn’t matter about job titles, positions, or hierarchy. It creates a level playing field which is essential for building trust.
  2. Yes it is fun! Sometimes fun in the work place gets criticism, but who listens to something when they are not interested or it is boring. When people are whole-heatedly engaged that’s when the serious learning takes place.
  3. It moves the team beyond task talk and into open dialogue. When that moment of open dialogue is reached barriers are broken.
  4. Rules are meant to be broken- in play the boundaries are often moved this in turn makes it more possible in the workplace- things that everyone thought couldn’t be moved suddenly can- change happens and everyone’s on board.
  5. Things happen that you don’t expect. Being adaptable, flexible and able to put new plans in place is the only way through.
  6. Play encourages feedback from championing to challenging and sharing. Sharing builds a community and a common purpose.
  7. Play is human nature, there is no right or wrong way- people are responsible for themselves and finding a way to join in. This makes people step up, it is not often as adult we get this opportunity as we are always told how, what, where and when. This is essential in building autonomy and accountability.
  8. There is always more than one way. This enables people to experiment, be innovative and find new ways of working.
  9. Leadership is shared and passed around, building mastery and capacity within the team.
  10. Everyone goes beyond what they thought was possible- reluctance and being out of their comfort zone shifts and everyone goes further- people are often surprised by what they do, what others do.

Catherine Wilks, Founder and Director of In Movement November 2012