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Get Out and Play

If you’re in a creative or productivity rut, get out and play.

Stuart Brown, M.D., a leading expert on the subject of play, views it as a catalyst that leads to other productivity gains. He expresses that “Remembering what play is all about and making it a part of our daily lives are probably the most important factors in being a fulfilled human being. The ability to play is critical to not only being happy, but also to sustaining social relationships and being a creative, innovative person.”

Regarding work environments, Brown states, “play-based approaches to managing work teams and projects have proven to dramatically increase the rate of innovation in workgroups.” Further, he indicates that play “renews our natural sense of optimism and opens us up to new possibilities” and that it “lies at the core of creativity and innovation.”

According to a 2009 issue of Scientific American magazine, “imaginative and rambunctious ‘free play,’ as opposed to games or structured activities, is the most essential type.”

I recently attended a “design-thinking” program that featured professor Barry Kudrowitz, Ph.D., from the University of Minnesota. Barry is a recent transfer from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He gave a one-hour talk about the benefits of play when designing new products.

Kudrowitz sited several studies about the benefits of play when seeking new ideas. For example, in a study by Lieberman in 1965, quality of playfulness significantly correlated with measures of divergent thinking. Similarly, a study by Johnson in 1976 found strong correlation between social make-believe play and divergent thinking measures. In 1990, Wyver and Spence demonstrated that divergent problem solving skills facilitated the development of play skills, and vice versa.

Play, therefore, is a catalyst that leads to creative progress. It dislodges us from our trenches and into new growth areas.

Growth, of course, is important to us individually. But it’s also important for us collectively. A 2010 Newsweek article indicated that “a recent IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs identified creativity as the No. 1 ‘leadership competency’ of the future. Yet it’s not just about sustaining our nation’s economic growth. All around us are matters of national and international importance that are crying out for creative solutions, from saving the Gulf of Mexico to bringing peace to Afghanistan to delivering health care.”

Additionally, a 2005 BusinessWeek article stated that “the new core competence is creativity—the right-brain stuff that smart companies are now harnessing to generate top-line growth.”

This week, schedule some spirited playtime. Dance. Play a game of catch. Or buy a yo-yo next time you’re at Walgreens.

On your mark . . . Get set . . . GO!

About the author, John

John Benzick is an entrepreneurship coach and the founder of Venture Superfly. He is a Tech Partner at the venture-capital fund of Matchstick Ventures, a Mentor with Techstars Retail accelerator, an Entrepreneur-In-Residence and (former CEO-in-Residence) at the University of Minnesota, and founder and owner in two consumer product businesses. Click the button below to learn more.

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