After watching Tim Brown’s (CEO of Ideo) TED video on creativity and play, I started thinking about playful facilitation and what we can learn from Tim’s video. As with most things to do with facilitation, there’s two distinct angles: what can I learn about facilitating (an external focus) AND what can I learn about myself as a facilitator (an internal focus).
You can watch the video here.
Here’s some of the messages that stood out for me.
We fear (or care too much) what others people think of us and that generates conservative (or safe) thinking. This is a form of self blocking. When facilitating it’s easy to rely on tried and true approaches, something safe that we know will work. Trying something out of the ordinary has consequences – it might fail, we might look like we don’t know what we are doing, we might look foolish, we might stand out, it might work, we might discover something amazing. Playfully trying something new takes the edge off and invites the participants to experiment with you. Let them know it’s a new idea or approach, you’re not sure how it will work out and that you’d like their comments. It’s an invitation to be playful together.
The importance of friendship – how we can be more playful with our friends, and take creative risks. There’s mutual trust. Building trust with a group is important. Being friends with them is just too big an ask. However, for those people I collaborate with, co-design, co-deliver and generally want to work with more often, I want to be friends with first. I had the joy of working with two of my best friends for many years. We were amazingly creative, had lots of fun and now share lots memories for reliving. And when we’re together, we’re still creative. And still have fun.
The need to re-learn playfulness and have the tools at hand all the time. Tim shows the difference between materials available in pre-school, in secondary school and in the office. With few exceptions, office environments don’t support, encourage or facilitate play, playfulness, and hence new ideas, creativity and innovation. This is tricky. I’m happy to fill my own work space with playful things. I’m less likely to spread such materials around a workshop. Sometimes they can create a barrier. You’ve seen the people who walk in, see the coloured pens and paper, maybe pipe cleaners, or lego blocks, or juggling balls, roll their eyes and say “so it’s going to be one of those workshops!” I tend to have these things available and use them if and when it’s appropriate. If people have lost their playfulness, it can’t be restored with simply a few materials. I suspect people will need to be reintroduced gently. A few well selected improv games can work wonders!
The desire to be original is a type of editing. Too right! I recognise this in myself often. And exactly what does ‘original’ mean? When Janis Ian released her 2004 Album Billie’s Bones, the title track reflected her gratefulness for the legacy left by those who came before, and acknowledged that what we do today builds on what was achieved by those who came before us. This is true of facilitating too.
BILLIE’S TEARS FALL LIKE DUST
FROM THE AIR INTO MY EYES
SEEPING IN BEFORE THEY RUST
SPILLING SECRETS WORDS CAN’T HIDE
I AM STANDING ON THE BONES
OF A MOUND TOO HIGH TO CLIMB
SELLING SECRETS TO ATONE
FOR A SONG THAT IS NOT MINE
BILLIE’S BONES ARE WHITE AND BLEACHED
PILED HIGH AND HARD TO REACH
AND THE TOP LOOKS COLD AND BLEAK
BUT I SEE FARTHER WHEN I STAND
ON BILLIE’S BONES IN BILLIE’S LAND
Construction play, where ideas are made concrete, enables thinking with your hands.
Play has rules – it’s not anarchy. Just look at kids in a playground. Rules abound. We need rules on ‘how’ to play and ‘when’ to play. Facilitators can hold space for playfulness by providing the rules on ‘how’ and ‘when’ to play.
Tim summarises with:
Exploration – go for quantity
Building – think with you hands
Role Play – act it out
How do you bring playfulness into your own practice as a facilitator?
What suggestions would you have for ‘being playful’ and ‘using playfulness’?