4 Min reading time

Playground Perspectives: Unleashing Playfulness in Work and Life

20. 09. 2023

When we expect a child, our brain seems to convince us that an above-average number of pregnant ladies are around. Never mind if it’s confirmation or frequency bias that makes us feel this way; what matters is that when something occupies our thoughts, it’s difficult to see anything but that occurrence in everything.

When we chose “playground” as the theme for our next QED conference, it felt like the entire world turned into a massive playground, and fun and games seemed to pop up everywhere!

“Barbieheimer” dominated this summer’s entertainment industry. Being a devoted follower of Nolan, it’s no surprise I was excitedly waiting for his new movie and where my loyalty lies. But I also decided to give Barbie a shot!

 

Despite ratings, reviews, and enjoying the movies, one of the things that stuck with me was seeing play and playground in both of them .

Let’s start with what might be the most apparent example. My dear colleague, Kresimir Mudrovcic, is known for being our member of the board and famous for his vintage French style. Recently, he decorated his office.

During the Barbie frenzy, he was fearless and shared with us how he had a nightmare. In his dream, someone transformed his new office into a Barbie-style room.

Yes, we decided to surprise him!

It’s an understatement to say that we had a fantastic time buying pink stuff, and wrapping furniture in crepe paper, and, of course, it was amazing to wait for his arrival to the office. But what was genuinely brilliant and will remain a memory were the reactions of the team discussing the “decoration,” especially people who accidentally found themselves in the hallway and immediately joined the action. We all talk a lot about safe organizations. Organizations where people feel secure to develop their potential, voice their opinions, and even make mistakes. If there ever was a litmus test for how safe our organization is, it was this. Pranking a member of the management is usually something you think twice before doing. But not on our watch

Kresimir’s reaction, of course, certified the entire play. Not only did he immediately put on the Ken shirt he received, but he also left the room pink for weeks after the event. Such a spontaneous, playful event significantly boosts creativity, courage, and effectiveness in day-to-day work. A well-coordinated team with a sense of humor will find it easier to devise innovative solutions for clients. Yet, it’s evident that such actions cannot be forced or done intentionally; they are merely a symptom of a healthy organization.

Returning to Oppenheimer from the beginning of the story. After watching the film, I became obsessed with reading biographies about scientists of that era. Among them, I stumbled upon the biography of Enrico Fermi. Enrico seems rather focused, and it’s hard to imagine anything besides physics truly driving him, except perhaps long hikes. Yet, very often, with a great deal of playfulness, they worked in his laboratory in Rome on super serious research that eventually earned him the Nobel Prize. From the nicknames, they gave each other (him Pope) to chasing around in the lab while gathering equipment. They were often so playful that even Niels Bohr, during his visit, was surprised and gave up on finding Fermi because he was confused by the play in the hallways.

These two stories alone explain why play is essential in a business environment. However, there are a few additional explanations. In recent QED conferences, we’ve delved into several down-to-earth and arguably heavy topics like Value, Future-Proof, and Trust. And all of that happened in the shadow of significant global shifts. While in Zadar during the last conference, a decision was made that we needed to relax the theme a bit. And what’s better to relax ourselves than play? However, we want to play with purpose. We play to create value. We play to build trust. We play to prepare for the future.

That’s why we need a ground to ground ourselves a bit. We want a sandbox to test technologies, and we want a space in which we can discover and find business value.

Surely, many are wondering if everyone can afford to play! I am convinced they must. Fermi could do it while breaking down atoms. In that case, we can all benefit significantly from stepping away from the problems we’re currently facing.

 

While explaining why this topic is good and essential, I found an excellent sentence in Stuart Brown’s book “Play .”

 

Play is not the opposite of work. Work is an extension of play.

Stuart Brown, Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul

I sincerely hope that this text will instill a bias in you for at least a few days and that you, like us, will see play in everything. While watching TV, spending time with your dog, hanging out with the family, or even better during your next meeting.

Mark the dates for the upcoming PLAYGROUND QED Conference in Zadar from May 5th to May 7th, 2024.

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