“An artist must actively caress wonder: for fascination, like the desire to play, can be eradicated by the rigors of living.” Eric Maisel
“There is a myth, common in American culture, that work and play are entirely separate activities.”
That is a quote by Laura Seargeant Richardson, a principal designer at frog design, who “specializes in the emotional, social, participatory and future design of products and environments.”
She recalls a job interview in 1998:
Back then, the software maker Trilogy was dubbed “Insanity Inc.” by Fast Company because of its late work nights and legendary retreats to Vegas. Trilogy was hiring like mad to keep up with demand and was looking for “young, talented overachievers with entrepreneurial ambition and chutzpah.”
During my interview I was asked to write a line of programming code on a whiteboard in front of five people. Then I was directed to “Brainstorm all the possible things you can do with bubble wrap.” Bubble wrap? TEDGlobal 2009 speaker Daniel Pink would later call this using a “whole new mind.” For me, it was an exhilarating reminder of the relevance of open-ended play and the continuing need for workplace creativity.
There is a myth, common in American culture, that work and play are entirely separate activities. I believe they are more entwined than ever before. As the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget once said, “Play is the answer to how anything new comes about.” A playful mind thrives on ambiguity, complexity, and improvisation—the very things needed to innovate and come up with creative solutions to the massive global challenges in economics, the environment, education, and more.
Creativity starts as a kid
She adds, “Are our children getting the play they need to thrive in the 21st century? According to reports from sources such as Harvard University, Time magazine, Newsweek, and The Futurist, the answer is no.”
From her article: Frog Design: The Four Secrets of Playtime That Foster Creative Kids.
Competition and play: Emily Fox, cup stacking champion
In another article, Richardson writes:
Nearly a decade ago, John Howkins wrote a book called The Creative Economy: How People Make Money From Ideas. Similarly, Richard Florida identified the “creative class” and suggested that innovation would come from a “super creative core.” But somehow, even with this knowledge, we have fallen further behind.
According to Newsweek, the United States is in a creativity crisis. TIME reports that today’s students are less tolerant of ambiguity and have an aversion to complexity. And The Futurist suggests that the biggest challenge facing our children is their inability to think realistically, creatively, and optimistically about the future. Wake up, America. The real threat to the United States’ continued superpower status isn’t from an arsenal of weapons—it’s from the lack of an arsenal of the mind.
Eighty-five percent of today’s companies searching for creative talent can’t find it. In a recent IBM survey, 1,500 CEOs identified creativity as the number one leadership competency of the future. And the United Nations just released the Creative Economy Report of 2010, suggesting that creative countries are more economically resilient. As Tim Draper voiced in the documentary 2 Million Minutes, “America is the one country that doesn’t seem to recognize that it is in competition for the great minds and capital of the world.”
During my keynote speech at MIT’s Sandbox Summit last year, I suggested that “Play is the greatest natural resource in a creative economy.” In the future, economies won’t be driven by financial capital or even the more narrowly focused scientific capital, but by play capital as well. I predict the countries that take play seriously, not only nurturing it in education and the workforce but also formalizing it as a national effort, will quickly rise in the world order.
This is not Twister in the boardroom. Rather, it’s what Jeremy Levy, a physics professor at the University of Pittsburgh, would call “a highly advanced form of play.”
From her article Play Power: How to Turn Around Our Creativity Crisis.
Adult play: Many actors are known for being pranksters
Infamous prankster George Clooney has gotten revenge on Matt Damon for an alleged prank in which Damon confirmed that Clooney was gay to a reporter.
According to the Telegraph, while Damon was staying with Clooney at Clooney’s Italian villa last summer and trying to lose weight for a role, Clooney secretly hired a tailor to take in the waistbands of all of Damon’s pants each day during his stay.
Clooney said: “He couldn’t understand how he seemed to be gaining weight while he was trying so hard to lose it.”
[From George Clooney Plays a Humorous Prank on Matt Damon, By Lindsay Robertson nymag.com 10/17/09]
Keeping our creative spirit alive
“If you’re not having fun, the child-like spirit inside of you will rebel and prevent ideas from trying to make their way to your conscious awareness. You must find time to do those things that you find fun every once in a while, even if they are not related to work.
“Play and joy are creative helium and lift your spirits into view of new ideas… and crazy concepts that pop into ingenuity.”
Jill Badonsky – from her Dear Muse Column on her site.
Diane Ackerman, a poet, essayist and naturalist who teaches creativity at Cornell, in her book “Deep Play” talks about being able to “play anywhere that is set off from reality, whether it be a playground, a field, a church or a garage.
“Deep play doesn’t have to do with an activity, like shallow play. It has to do with attitude or an extraordinarily intense state… Swept up by the deeper states of play, one feels balanced, creative, focused…
“Deep play is an absence of mental noise — liberating, soothing, and exciting. It means no analysis, no explanation, no promises, no goals, no worries. You are completely open to the drama of life that may unfold.”
From my article Creativity and Flow Psychology.
Photo: Future Picasso? by sallylondon – also used in post: Childlike creativity: Nurturing Your Creative Mindset.
Diane Ackerman. Deep Play
A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, by Daniel H. Pink.
The Creative Economy: How People Make Money From Ideas, by John Howkins.
The Flight of the Creative Class: The New Global Competition for Talent, by Richard Florida.
Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, by Stuart Brown, MD.
Eric Maisel is leading the online course: Your Best Life in the Arts