That’s one of the reasons I like to play games when I work with people. It helps me to truly see the people I work with. Not only just see them, but also see their light and joy, basically their best and happiest selves. It’s almost magical to see how an individual or a group loosens up when they laugh and play. It’s as if someone turned on the light in a shaded room and suddenly everything looks different.
The games I use most often come from improvisational theatre. These particular games have helped me to be a more playful and flexible person myself, and also taught me creative leadership skills.
Here are 7 reasons why and a book so you can start playing more games straight away.
1. Allows you to learn real-life lessons without real-life consequences
Well-designed learning games are like life or your work, they trigger the same behavior so that you can see what your auto responses and patterns are and learn from them. The great thing, of course, is that the consequences in a game are “not real” what makes it safe to experiment with new behavior. Once the game is over, it’s just a game and you can get out with a lesson learned.
2.Practice failure and risk taking
Traditional schooling and upbringing encouraged us to think straight and play safe. Therefore, most of us have very little experience in risk-taking and failure. The regular loop is to either a) take a risk and succeed or b) take a risk, fail, feel ashamed and stop trying.
Improv games teach us to take risks, succeed or fail, be curious about why, laugh, and try again. This is all in order to learn. There is one infamous game at THNK where we celebrate “unexpected data!” when we mess up to practice an innovative mindset.
3. Play connects
In non-competitive play, everybody comes in as equal. Language, job, traditional skills, and status often fall away when we play. If the environment is set right, people feel safe to be themselves. As a result it’s easier to connect to each other’s true self than in more traditional environments. Because the situation is often just out of our comfort zone, our regular defenses are down which makes the connection quicker and more direct. Play then provides a sense of belonging. A wise man once said ‘the opposite of play is not work, it’s depression’
4. Playing opens the mind and explores possibilities
To me, play, make-believe, and storytelling are the oldest form of research that we all used.
“Cause I was a fire fighter and you were caught in your house”
“yes, and my cat was still in the attic and I wanted you to save her first”.
Through scenarios we explore different solutions or solution spaces. We postpone our judgement when it’s easier. When it’s “just play” we can come up with new and fresh possibilities.
5. Play brings you to a state of flow
It’s impossible to play in the past or the future, play is now and immerses you fully in the process of the activity. That’s especially true for the games we use at THNK because they come from improvisation theatre, where being present and acting on your feet is a vital mindset and skill.
6. Play prepares you for complex situations
Not knowing all the rules and dealing with circumstances that keep changing train an important mindset for complex situations. Play is often non-linear and those who try to manage by planning, will fail. Preparing helps though. Understanding the underlying network structures helps you to react agile to things as they unfold.
7. Play frees up your creativity
We are all creative beings, but some of us seem to have temporarily forgotten that. We often think we have to be original, smart, right and good – these are all creativity killers. Playfulness helps to not take yourself so serious for a moment. And once we get our inner sensor and part of our ego out of the way, creativity can happen. Not only by you, but mostly through you.
Do you feel like playing now?
We documented THNK’s most popular learning games in a new book, Eye Openers, a Practical Guide. You can get started using them at work immediately.
The special thing about this new book is that all the games are designed to experience a certain learning, skill or mindset from THNK’s Leadership Model or Creation Flow. That’s why they are called Eye Openers, they are designed to be fully experiential and have the potential to enlighten you.
After you play one of the Eye Opener games, the next step is to debrief the experience to drive the learning home. Since this is often the hardest part for the facilitator, we provide you with a guide including debrief questions and answers. Those answers are the ones I heard most in 15 years of facilitating those games. These are answers of an imaginary mono-participant, who does not exist. But with whom I had lively conversations with in the process of writing this book. Just an other example of scenario thinking.
I am curious to your experience in playing and facilitating with these eye openers.
Let the games begin!