Category Archives: Playfulness

How I got to speak at TEDx

For 3 years I had a dream of speaking at TED or a TEDx event. Last month I got my 15 minutes of stage at TEDxTallaght in Dublin. Some people ask me how I got in…and here’s my answer. More and more TEDx events invite speakers to send in their idea, either in text or in a short video. So did TEDxTallaght. Here’s the little video that I made that got me in 🙂

I can highly recommend using Imaginative Play for whatever goal you have in your life. It may take 3 years before it becomes reality…in the end you can say; I did it anyway 😉

Annemarie Steen

PS Having a good friend (thank you Padraig) close to the organizing committee also had a positive influence on the decision.

You’re more than welcome to join my Licence to Play community for inspiration and resources on playfulness & playful learning.

Click on “What happens when you press Play” to see the actual TEDx talk

TEDxTallaght I What happens when you press PLAY I Annemarie Steen

From Playing the Game of Seriousness, it’s now time for playing a different game: The Game of SeriousLESS…and to allow and welcome our authentic and playful selves to come back to the surface. Not only at home, but especially at work. Besides the fact that this will increase our mental health and sense of well-being, it will also bring us vital lifeskills to deal with today’s fast changing and complex world.

You’re welcome to join my playful community to get updates, inspiration and resources on Playfulness & Playful Learning.

Playfully yours,

Annemarie Steen

My personal experience doing a TEDx talk (in Dublin)

Annemarie Steen at TEDxTallaght

Annemarie Steen at TEDxTallaght

One day before my TED talk at TEDxTallaght in Dublin I was visiting a local pub. An alcoholic toothless guy (his name was Dan), came up to me and asked me “Where are you from?” And ofcourse I replied with “I’m from The Netherlands, I live in Eindhoven area”. And I asked him the same question: “Where are you from?” And his reply was: “Earth”. I laughed and we started talking. He said “the moment we say where we are from, we distinct ourselves from others, while the earth is such a tiny place in the total universe”. And I thought he’s absolutely right. We are all earthlings.

Last minute, I changed the start of my TED talk based on this idea and my starting sentence became: Hello, my fellow earthlings 😉

Later in our conversation he said: “So you PLAY with people all around the world, AND get paid for it? That sounds like the best job in the world!” And I replied with a big smile: YES!

My biggest fear was that my time (15 min) was too limited to tell my story AND get the audience up and invite them to leave their comfortzone (Play is something very scary for adults) and enter their playzone. Play is an experience product. I invited the audience to experience  5 different types of play; object play, imaginative/pretend play, movement play, creative play and social play. And looking at the faces…it went gr8! (pictures by @rocshot)

tedxtallaght

tedxtallaghttedxtallaght

Now, it’s waiting for the video to be released…(3-4 weeks).

If you want to have the first look…you’re welcome to follow/like my facebookpage.

Wish you a playful day!

Annemarie Steen 🙂

Are Estonians Happy?

Previously I wrote a blogpost “The two faces of Estonians” about my experience with Estonian people. They tend to believe, that they are a very serious and more introvert type of people, especially when at work. In their private life and at weekend parties they dare to show their other, more playful side.

Happy in TallinnRecently I was invited by some Happy Estonians to help them make a Happy in Tallinn music video from Pharrell Williams’ hit song, after making a Happy in Eindhoven one in my own hometown. It was my role to invite the people to dance and act playful to the music while we were filming. Sometimes a bit shy at first but quickly loosening up to the music, we shot the video in two amazing days. The video was released 3 weeks ago and already got almost 20.000 views.

Some of the reactions of Estonians to the video were;

These are not real Estonian people, these are actors and it is fake. We don’t show our happiness this openly.

For me I see this as a big compliment. Apparently I was capable of bringing their playful side out in front of the camera. And I’m very proud of the result. I know for a fact that Estonians are Happy! They just need a little bit of encouragement to show it…But then again; don’t we all?

Enjoy the video:

With playful greetings,
Annemarie Steen

You’re more than welcome to get updates on my projects and resources about playfulness and playful learning by following my facebookpage.

Explosion of Happy video’s on youtube…and I couldn’t resist making one too.

Happy in Eindhoven1682 video’s from 142 countries! (at this moment) Have a look at this impressive list of cities that have done a Happy video clip on the hit song “Happy” from Pharrell Williams.

When I looked at this list two months ago, I say that Eindhoven, my city was not in the list. And I decided to be the one to change that fact. Why? Because I love to see people playful, spontaneous, a little crazy and daring to step out of their comfort zone. And this seemed to be the perfect chance to invite them to do just that. So, I started a facebookgroup and invited people of my hometown to join the project. I asked them on what special location in Eindhoven they wanted to have their 30sec ‘of fame’ to do a little dance. A week before the shoot I made a planning of all locations and posted this on the group.

The day itself (April 19th) everything went awesome. We were lucky to have perfect weather, everybody was at their locations in time, all very happy, some even rehearsing with a large group of friends they brought along. The youngest was 5 years old, the oldest 88! We (Me, Mike with his videocamera and Aikje with her photo camera) were shooting from 10am until 9pm, visiting 15 different locations. I was also very lucky to find a sponsor for the editing, because I have no expertise in that area. Ad Mulders did a gr8 job.

And here’s the end result! Enjoy!

When your city is not in the list (yet), I can highly recommend to make one yourself. You get a lot of happy vibes from doing it. Good luck!

Playful Greetings,

Annemarie Steen

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Play, Playfulness & Playful Learning

What’s the difference or relation between Play, Playfulness & Playful Learning?

I’ll try to explain how I see it (at this moment).

violinPlay is an act, something that we (can) do. We can play with objects, play a game, play tennis or the violin, play a role, etc. Scholars say that Play has these following traits; “PLAY must be intrinsically motivated, you must be free to play (it has no utilitarian function), you don’t know the outcome, it is outside your ordinary life and it must be fun.” (Gwen Gordon)

play, playfulness bookPlayfulness on the other hand is not an act, but rather something that we are. It’s (as Bernie deKoven mentiones) inherited. It’s in our nature to be playful. And nature in itself is playful (Alan Watts). Bateson describes Playfulness as a positive moodstate, from where the act of playful play starts. It’s this moodstate that we see in young children much more often than in adults, who are told to act serious instead of playful. Only when we are really happy, in love or a bit typsy on alcohol, we cannot hide our playfulness anymore. It breaks through the surface of ‘behaving’ and reveiles itself as a force of our nature. No doubts: We ARE playful.

Some Play-practicioners, like Bernie de Koven, choose the path of purposeless play in the sense that pure play shouldn’t have a purpose or goal. It’s the act of play itself that’s fun and rewarding.

In Playful Learning things are a bit different. Learning games and experiences are designed to meet certain learning objectives. So it’s not play in itself that’s the goal, but the learningobjective is. In this case, Playful Learning is a mean towards reaching a desired outcome. This in itself seems to contradict with the ‘you don’t know the outcome’ of play.

I am passionate about Play AND Learning. So I develop playful experiences connected to objectives that are important to my clients. For example, a client asked me to deliver training to improve their performance at a businessfair. I designed games and exercises to raise awareness about groupenergy, connecting to strangers using status, collaboration, daring to ask for an order, etc. The client was surprised and delighted at how effective the team worked together (just after 2 sessions of 0,5 day) and delivered a peakperformance.

For me the learning that comes out of the playful exercises is more natural and much more powerful and longerlasting than traditional training. The participants are invited to make sense of their personal experiences, thus creating individual learning with possibly very different outcomes for different people. It’s teachless teaching in the sense that I don’t teach knowledge. I create playful experiences and invite my participants to make some sense out of them. And they find out: There’s sense in non-sense!

I also create Play Missions that don’t have any other purpose than to just enjoy doing them. And by doing them uplifting the energy of the player (and it’s surroundings).

So I haven’t yet made up my mind to what category of Play-practicioners I belong to. The ones that see pure Play as a goal in itself, or the ones that see Play as a mean towards reaching a goal. I play both 🙂

With playful greetings,
Annemarie Steen
Playfulness & Playful Learning

Playing with children, adults and Michael Gove: An interview with Patrick Bateson

Patrick Bateson recently published his book “Play, Playfulness, Creativity & Innovaton”, a scientifc approach to understand how these are connected. Here’s an article of an interview from Dana Smith with Bateson.

Brain Study

I’ve got a new piece up today on King’s Review of an interview I conducted with Cambridge professor of ethology Sir Patrick Bateson. Professor Bateson has a fascinating new book on the benefits of play and playfulness, and how these traits can help us develop creativity, innovation and flexible thinking.

I discuss the book with Professor Bateson, as well as branching into the effects reforms in education are having on our brains and behaviors, and how too much school may actually be harming children today.

And finally, the question everyone’s been wondering, do those ping-pong tables in new-age offices really offer any sort of benefits? Read the article to find out!

Playing with children, adults and Michael Gove: An interview with Patrick Bateson.

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Alan Watts on The Playful Universe

Some time ago I came across the work of Alan Watts, an English philosopher, author and speaker (who died in 1973, when I was just 2 years old). His vision on Play, Playfulness, the Universe & our Education system in this lecture are still very powerful and mindchanging.  I like to share with you a video that I found on Youtube, adding images (and dutch subtitles) to his words.

Here’s the transcript of this talk:

Existence, the physical universe, is basically playful. There is no necessity for it whatsoever. It isn’t going anywhere. It doesn’t have a destination that it ought to arrive at. But it is best understood by analogy with music, because music, as an art form, is essentially playful. We say you play the piano, you don’t’ work the piano. Why? Music differs from, say, travel. When you travel you’re trying to get somewhere. And, of course, we, being a very compulsive and purposive culture, are busy getting everywhere faster and faster until we eliminate the distance between places…what happens as a result of that is the two ends of your journey became the same place. You eliminate the distance, you eliminate the journey. The fun of the journey is travel, not to obliterate travel. So then, in music, one doesn’t make the end of a composition the point of the composition. If so, the best conductors would be those who played fastest and there would be composers who only wrote finales. People would go to a concert just to hear one crackling chord because that’s the end! Same way with dancing. You don’t aim at a particular spot in the room because that’s where you will arrive. The whole point of dancing is the dance. But we don’t see that as something brought by our education into our everyday conduct. We have a system of schooling which gives a completely different impression. It’s all graded and what we do is put the child into the corridor of this grade system with a kind of, “Come on, kitty, kitty,” and you go to kindergarten and that’s a great thing because when you finish that you get into first grade…then you’ve got high school, and it’s revving up, the thing is coming, then you’re going to go to college…you go out to join the world, then you get into some racket where you’re selling insurance, and they’ve got that quota to make, and by god you’re going to make that, and all the time the thing is coming, it’s coming! It’s coming! That great thing. The success you’re working for. Then you wake up one day about 40 years old and you say, “My god, I’ve arrived. I’m there.” And you don’t feel very different from what you’ve always felt and there’s a slight letdown because you feel there’s a hoax. And there was a hoax! A dreadful hoax. They made you miss everything by expectation…we’ve cheated ourselves the whole way down the line. We thought of life by analogy with a journey, a pilgrimage, which had a serious purpose at the end and the thing was to get to that end, success or whatever it is, maybe heaven after you’re dead. But we missed the point the whole way along. It was a musical thing and you were supposed to sing or to dance while the music was being played.”

The two faces of Estonians

Annemarie SteenLast week I was invited to Estonia (by Parnu Konverentsid) to speak at a Leadership Conference about Playfulness in Business. Estonia is a very nice country, one of the three Baltic States in the North East of Europe. As big (or as small) as The Netherlands, but with 12x less inhabitants. They have a beautiful medieval capital Tallinn and a lot of nature. In Europe they do relatively well.

In the few days that I spend there, I encountered the two faces of Estonians. Their serious, polite and introvert behaviour when they are in a business setting. And their playful, sparkling, more open behaviour when they are having a party, especially the younger generation. Maybe not surprising when you understand that the younger generation was born in a free Estonia and their parents lived many years under an illegal occupation from the Soviet Union (1940-1991). So, when I told some people my plans of doing an interactive speech for the 300 businessleaders, where I would invite them to PLAY, they looked at me in disbelief and wished me “Good Luck”.

leadershipSo there I was, my heart pounding in my chest when I was announced onto the stage. Standing on the stage, with the plan of starting with blowing bubbles, I realized that I had accidentally dropped part of my blowing bubble on my way. I had to quickly improvise and get a new one of one of the tables of the audience. In a way this saved me, because when you’re improvising you’re in the moment, and that’s exactly where you should be during a speech. From there it went really well. Explaining why I believe Playfulness in Business could help them perform better, creating more openness, connectedness, collaboration and creativity. Attributes that are needed to cope with today’s VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex & Ambiguous) World. Then came the moment of truth, inviting the audience to different kinds of PLAY, like movement play, social play and creative play with a few short ‘Play Missions’.

What happened was, was what happens everywhere. Once people feel that they get the permission or the Licence to Play, they enjoy themselves immensely. Their eyes begin to sparkle. It’s because Play is in our nature. Play connects us and Play is pure Joy.

So for me this was a Mission Accomplished!

Now back home in The Netherlands. I feel that I will return many times to this charming country and it’s very nice people. Special Thanks to Toomas Tamsar, the man who had faith in me, without ever seeing me speak before 🙂

Playful greetings,

Annemarie Steen

(*) photos taken by Urmas Kamdron

Mission Accomplished

I was delighted with the great results of this Secret Play Mission that I shared with you in my last blogpost.

All kinds of monsters came in on the secret group ‘Licence to Play’ on Facebook. Thank you all playful secret change agents out there! Here are some of them:

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