Go Back
Contrary to the widely held belief in business, playfulness is not a waste of time and energy – it is a remarkable tool for your team to find innovative solutions to complex challenges.

In the fast-paced world of business, play is often dismissed as a frivolous pastime reserved for childhood. However, unlocking the potential of playfulness within organizations can be a game-changer.

Play is all about fostering creativity and innovation within your organization. We’ve heard of the phrase ‘innovate or die’. How are we supposed to innovate if we don’t orchestrate intentional playful experimentation and risk-taking? When people feel free to play and explore new ideas, they are more likely to come up with innovative solutions to complex challenges.

Rediscovering the Exuberance of Youth

To play is to engage in an activity purely for enjoyment and entertainment, for no express purpose but for the feeling the generated by the activity itself. Play comes naturally to humans, and is instinctive in all of us – especially in children.

There’s something magical about watching children play. Whether it’s with LEGO or the latest VR action game, playing dress-ups or pretending they’re a storybook character, their curiosity and enthusiasm for exploring the unknown is palpable.

When people feel free to play and explore new ideas, they are more likely to come up with innovative solutions to complex challenges.

Unfortunately, as adults, we’ve forgotten how to play. Our social norms dictate that play is a state reserved exclusively for children, meaning many of us have traded our curiosity for contempt. Most workplaces today are very rigid and hierarchical, discouraging employees from taking risks or trying new things. Here are five compelling benefits of incorporating more play into corporate culture:

1. Fosters Creativity and Innovation

Play encourages a mindset free from constraints. When employees engage in playful activities, they tap into their imaginations, leading to fresh perspectives and groundbreaking ideas.

2. Strengthens Team Cohesion

Play is a natural team-building activity. From team games to creative workshops, playful experiences create bonds among team members, fostering a sense of camaraderie and collaboration. This is essential to paving the way to a high-performing team.

3. Boosts Employee Morale

Playfulness injects a sense of fun into the work environment, combating stress and boosting morale. Happier employees are more engaged, leading to increased productivity and a positive workplace culture. In contrast, a disengaged employee costs a business 34 percent of their annual salary.

4. Enhances Problem-Solving Skills

Play often involves overcoming challenges and thinking on your feet. Incorporating playful problem-solving activities sharpens employees’ ability to tackle real-world business challenges with resilience and adaptability.

5. Improves Communication Skills

Playful interactions break down communication barriers. From team games to improvisation exercises, employees learn to communicate effectively, promoting open dialogue and a more inclusive workplace. And who doesn’t want that?

I’m often brought into senior leadership teams with the objective of improving clarity, engagement and ownership of a grand transformational vision. As part of the process, I like to ask leadership team members which five emotions they think are critical to success, then dive deeper into the top five emotions they want the workforce to feel.

It’s Just a Game

99.9 percent of people (including me, by the way – let alone senior leaders in large global organizations) do not talk about feelings comfortably. They get their backs up, shuffle their feet and avoid eye contact. It isn’t fun.

I’ve since gamified the process. I use a deck of cards, each with one emotion printed on it, as a way to make the discussion about touchy-feely stuff feel less intimidating. People point to the cards, or pick up the cards they’re referring to. It seems less personal and more playful this way.

Embracing play within the corporate setting is not just about having fun; it’s about unlocking untapped potential, fostering a positive culture and setting the stage for sustained success.

As any parent of young children can tell you, turning an activity into a game is a great way to get people to participate in important tasks. An example of this could be parents attaching rewards to well-performed chores.

This strategy is best used when we need to motivate someone to perform an action. Gamification is an effective behavior-change tactic if we want to reduce the fear of the new and unknown, or simply gain widespread adoption of and compliance around new digitized processes.

A Practical Guide

Play has an image problem. Some organizations regard play as frivolous – a waste of time, a distraction or a pointless exercise. Play is usually described as a break from ‘real work’.

But it’s not. You see, the opposite of play isn’t work, it’s disengagement. Partaking in play actually improves work quality.

Below are five practical tips on how you can infuse playfulness into your culture.

1. Designate Play Spaces

Create designated areas within the workspace for games, puzzles or relaxation. This signals to employees that play is not only allowed but encouraged.

2. Integrate Play into Meetings

Start or end meetings with a quick team-building game or an icebreaker. This lightens the atmosphere and sets a positive tone for collaboration.

3. Organize Playful Workshops

Host workshops centered around playful activities like improvisation or scavenger hunts. These activities promote creativity and team bonding.

4. Implement Gamified Learning

Incorporate gamified elements into training programs. This not only makes learning more engaging but also taps into the competitive and playful spirit of employees.

5. Encourage Diverse Hobbies

Support employees’ diverse interests and hobbies. Whether it’s a board game night or a lunchtime yoga session, creating space for personal passions fosters a more vibrant and playful workplace.

Embracing play within the corporate setting is not just about having fun; it’s about unlocking untapped potential, fostering a positive culture and setting the stage for sustained success. Organizations that play together are better positioned to navigate challenges, innovate and create a workplace that employees look forward to being a part of each day.

Friska Wirya

Contributor Collective Member

Friska Wirya is the powerhouse behind Fresh by Friska, a boutique change management consultancy for leaders, teams and global businesses. She is the bestselling author of ‘The Future Fit Organization: A Leader’s Guide to Transformation’, a TEDx speaker and a Top 50 Global Change Management Thought Leader. Friska has been featured in ‘SmartCompany’, ‘The Sydney Morning Herald’, ‘The Straits Times’, ‘Vogue’ and ‘Harper’s Bazaar’. Discover more at https://www.freshbyfriska.com/

Back to top