Do you play at the office? Or is that just not what the office is all about? Strapped in suits, ties and high heels you are asked to solve the most difficult of problems which require lots of creativity. How do you access all that creativity in such very serious settings?
During a coaching conversation with a Director, he told me about the fun he had with one of his peers. Each had an office in the same hallway. They eased each other and one day, he flipped a small paper ball across the meeting table to his colleague. The next morning, he found a plastic toy pistol with foam rubber bullets on his desk. Looking at it, he couldn’t help but smile while imagining that foam flying across the room and the energy it would create in the afternoon meeting. He loved the idea. I realized that it had been quite a while since he had such real fun at the office.
You and I know that when we have to work on something really difficult, that it can help to physically move around. We all know that image of the professor who paces through her office for hours. That’s why we often suggest an outside walk during our long client meetings. The Director with the toy pistol likes such a suggestion, but it is not for everyone because walking doesn’t appear to be working, which makes it difficult to do during office hours. Yet walking around can help to get to those deeper insights.
I deliver better speeches when I allow the ‘kid in me’ enough breathing room. Some companies display the natural characteristics of a playground because they find it important to draw out the ‘kid’ in their employees. For instance, the young, innovative internet companies often have the personality of a playground. We worked with an advertising agency recently that had such a look as well. Mind stimulating prints and objects were standing and hanging in all their hallways and offices. After going to their bathroom with prints on the walls and a film projected on the bathroom’s wall, I felt invited to bring my ‘inner kid’ to the client meeting.
Of course, there are plenty of companies with a more serious image that invite their employees to come to work with all who they are, including the kid in them. At an insurance company in Europe, we were amazed about the playfulness of the IT meeting rooms. We had a choice! There was a white, stimulus-neutral room with a meeting table. There was a meeting room with cushions on the floor, like a desert tent, and a room with only furniture made of refurbished wood. Just selecting the rooms was fun.
Does your organization have a play area and how do you stimulate creativity?