Creating Open & Collaborative Cultures through Play

worrySince 2004 IBM conducts every two years a Global CEO Survey among global business and public sector leaders to research what keeps them busy (at night in bed). The survey consists of in-person interviews with (in 2012) over 1700 CEO’s worldwide.

More than half of all CEO’s see Human Capital, Customer Relationships and Innovation as key sources of sustained economic value (report 2012).

The findings (2010 & 2012) show a fast growing need for some critical capabilities of employees, in order to deal with the complexity of operating in an increasingly volatile and uncertain world. These include; creativity and creative leadership, collaborativeness, connectedness, communication and flexibility.

To foster these capabilities “CEO’s are creating more Open & Collaborative cultures – encouraging employees to connect, learn from each other and thrive in a world of rapid change. The emphasis on Openness is even higher among Outperforming organizations(*) – and they have the changemanagement-capabilities to make it happen.” (2012)

So where does Play fit into this?

To create a more Open, Collaborative & Innovative culture, it’s vital that people make the shift from their serious closed mode into their open mode. And the fastest way to get people into their open mode is through humor, laughter and fun, all essential parts of Playfulness. As John Cleese tells his students in this lecture; “The essence of Playfulness is openness to anything”.

Playfulness & Fear don’t go together well. You cannot be playful if you’re frightened of making a mistake, or of being ridiculed by others. So, in creating Openness through Play, creating a safe learningenvironment is essential. I also have my participants acknowledge their fear first before inviting them to play.

What I love most about my work as a Playful Learning facilitator, is when I see the magic power of Playfulness do her work. People take the step out of their comfortzone into their (natural born) Playzone and amazingly fast make the shift towards openness, connectedness, joy, spontaneity and creativity.

I see Play as a vital ingredient in creating and nurturing a 21st century succesful Company Culture. And I’m very curious to hear your opinions about this…

Playfully yours,

Annemarie Steen

(*) Outperfomers are organizations that surpass industry peers in terms of  revenue growth and profitability.

Interested in the findings & reports?



4 responses to “Creating Open & Collaborative Cultures through Play

  1. Agree but you need leaders who have relationship building profiles and the self motivation to create the playful culture and are prepared ro step outside their comfort zone. Too many leaders are task and process drivers who just want a result whatever the cost.
    We need more leaders who can change cultures from command and control to open and collaborative and release the true potential and creativeness of people. These type of leaders are in short supply.
    The leadership gap is a big issue right now with companies not investing sufficiently in developing the leaders of the future.
    SME type companies are more likely to adopt the playful and creative approach.
    Roger Waplington

    • Yes Roger, I agree that there is a growing leadership gap in most companies. Certainly now in Europe, I see a lot of leaders trying to cope with the economic downturn (and their feelings of fear, unclarity, insecurity, distrust, unsafety) in a very left brain manner: cutting costs, downsizing, reorganizing, trying to (re)gain control with more rules and procedures, etc. That’s ok and understandable, but it will not be enough. We’ll need leaders with a more balanced left/right brain approach. (“A whole new mind” – Daniel Pink). I strongly believe that Playfulness can play a major role in this transformation. I’m hopeful that companies and their leaders will recognize this too. After all, today’s leaders were natural playful kids once 🙂

  2. Reblogged this on Mental Flowers and commented:
    A really great look at playfulness in a corporate environment.

  3. As I have a business that uses improvisational exercises and games to teach businesspeople to be more creative, open, and imaginative, as well as how to use these skills in a practical way, I of course agree with you on the need to learn and be open to the role of creative play in a business environment. I think, however, that the biggest problem in getting a business to participate in these exercises is that they are counter-intuitive to many businesspeople. Most of us have been taught from a young age that work and play are opposites – not elements that go together to form a successful whole. Another issue we encounter is the perception that there is no time to use these exercises even if they do work – in the same way that we know that physical exercise is good for us, but often claim we have “no time” to workout.

    Unfortunately, we also can see a growing climate where businesses are faced with too much information that is moving too fast. This causes the general attitude to become – “We can barely keep up with the strategies we currently employ (which include the rapidly changing world of social media), so the idea of taking on a new approach to issues simply feels overwhelming.

    Tthank you for posting the above reports on the CEO surveys. They may prove quite helpful in my company’s way of approaching other businesses.

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