Get Serious About Fun and Games

  • Post author:
  • Post category:blog
  • Post comments:0 Comments
  • Reading time:5 mins read

“If you never did you should. These things are fun and fun is good.” – Dr. Seuss

When was the last time you played, I mean really played, just for fun? If you work at a place like Nike, maybe you play often, and hopefully you do. Perhaps you have a twice weekly pick-up basketball game, or you join the soccer troops regularly. You may giggle, laugh, and find delight in your daily interactions at work. Maybe your play is spending time with your kids, playing Monopoly or Uno cards, or being pushed on the swings almost as often as you do the pushing. Maybe you can’t remember the last time you played. Whether any of the above is true for you or not, I will give you plenty of reasons to keep playing or start playing no matter what your age.

You can start by taking on a fun but short little experiment. At your next staff or team meeting, ask each person to take out a sheet of paper pen and give them 30 seconds to draw a picture of the person next to them. Then ask each person to share their picture with that person (they don’t have to share it with the group unless they want to) and see what happens. One of the most common things that happens is the person who did the drawing spends a lot of time apologizing to the person they were drawing. There also tends to be a lot of nervous, awkward laughter.

What do you think would happen if you asked a group of 5-year-olds to do the same experiment? When asked to do the same thing, they usually draw their pictures and show them to anyone who will take a look. They seem to relish the idea of showing off their work. What difference does it make if kids are more willing to show their art work? The difference is this: as we grow up, we often begin to fear the judgment of our peers. We become increasingly embarrassed about sharing our ideas with people around us. This can spawn an environment of conservative thinking, where if we have an unusual idea, we may be afraid to share it due to fear of embarrassment or ridicule, of losing connection to the group.

So, what can we do to foster innovation, creativity, and awesome team collaboration at work? We can have fun by encouraging and engaging in daily play. A number of studies have shown that by playing, we will experience benefits such as:

  • Feeling more connected to others
  • Developing more creativity, flexibility and learning
  • Developing or enhancing perseverance
  • Decreasing stress
  • Feeling happy!

There is much to be gained by sharing positive emotional experiences with others. When we experience laughter and fun with others we are creating an “anchor” to that feeling and the group, and we are more likely to experience this positive feeling whenever we are with this group. Sometimes in play we may win, and sometimes we may not. Winning isn’t everything (despite the way some of us feel about it). Experiencing both triumph and defeat with your work team helps build empathy, compassion, and trust based on shared experience.

When we play, we have experiences that stimulate our imagination and help us adapt and solve problems more easily. Play arouses curiosity, it fosters discovery and creativity. Play draws on our need to persevere and see something through to the end. It can help us recognize that it takes practice to learn new skills or master them and in some arenas, mastery only comes through the group playing fluidly together.

One of the best reasons to play is the most simple: it is fun and we feel happy and unfettered, even if only for a few moments. Play can provide stress reduction and therapeutic benefits for adults who make it a habit. Taking play breaks on a daily basis can nourish a feeling of connectedness and sheer delight for ourselves and those around us.

So, if your team does not have a practice of play, why not get one started? Take 5-10 minutes a day for fun team play over the rest of this month. If you need some help finding games and ideas, ask your team for suggestions or check out books or websites with icebreakers and other group games. One website with some free games can be found at:

Imagine a world where adults play as a normal part of the workday: at the bank, in the grocery store, on mass transit and anywhere people come together frequently. Imagine a life where we interact in a more meaningful way – by creating fun in the ordinary!

Questions for comment: What are your experiences of play in the work place? What do you think would happen if you tried playing together as a part of your work day? How does competitive play feel different from play that is more focused on fun or the group?


Leave a Reply