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Let's Play: Fun for the Workplace

“A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men” ― Willy Wonka

According to Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, author of Building Resilience in Children and Teens, free, unstructured playtime gives kids a chance to discover their interests and tap into their creativity. It’s a crucial element for building resilience in children, an attribute they’ll need in order to become happy, productive adults. As happy and productive adults, don't we also thrive and contribute our best ideas when our leaders foster our professional growth and imagination in play-based work environments?

What if leaders encouraged their team members to see the workplace as a play ground? Here are five preschool practices translated for the workplace to encourage creativity, community and laughter. (Sorry, I couldn't find a productive translation of nap-time - but I tried!)

1. Show and Tell

During weekly team meetings or larger all-hand meetings, take 15 minutes to feature rotating presenters. Ask them to share something that's inspired or interested them recently. It can be an article they've read or a new musician or app or something, anything, that excited them or helped them find a solution to a creative problem. It's great if whatever is shared has a direct tie to your work, but don't limit the scope to work-related only. Inspiration can come from the strangest places and by freeing the team to share their passions, you're also strengthening the ties between members.

2. Snack-time

Cooking is a sure fire way to get the creative juices flowing. Sharing a favorite recipe or snack with the team at a quarterly pot-luck lets team members bond over food. Add a cook-off element and you encourage healthy competition. No time for an extra event? Have staff members contribute their favorite snacks for team meetings on a rotating basis or keep a great stash of snacks-on-demand for tight deadlines and marathon work weeks.

3. Field Trips

Everyone loves getting on a bus or in a car-pool and getting out of the office in search of inspiration. I've taken my team on trips to the Art Museum to find what they think is beautiful and why. My team recently locked themselves into one of those puzzle rooms and worked together to get out in record time. A former boss staged an elaborate scavenger hunt at a nearby town to see how we well we could work together outside our element. Be on the lookout for inspiring lectures, visiting artists, and performances you can attend together to learn more about each other and gather ideas from outside sources.

4. Circle Time

Most office environments don't have a circular rug and bookshelf with picture books at its disposal. I've found that regular stand-up meetings have a similar purpose and outcome as pre-school circle time. Bringing the team together for a quick 15 minute stand up meeting at the beginning or end of the day allows you as the leader to focus them on the immediate goals or accomplishments of the day, to update them on expectations, to answer questions, and to soothe any malcontents. A little classical music in the background doesn't hurt, either.

5. Dress Up

I had a boss once who loved to collect funky shoes. He had a bizarre collection of painted high-tops and rare Doc Maartens. I learned this one night at a business dinner when he uncharacteristically broke dress-code and wore a pair of U.S. Flag emblazoned combat boots. Later that month as we worked together to think of a team building event to celebrate the success of a major project, I suggested we host a "crazy shoe" contest alongside the usual pizza party. We worked for a very conservative company, but he took the risk and it paid off. We saw our co-workers in new light as they donned wacky platforms and blue suede shoes and took winning this prize and the iPad that went along with it super-seriously! Extra bonus? Our division of the company became known as the most fun.

Have you incorporated play into your workday? I'd love to hear how. Email me at

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