Category Archives: Playfulness

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.”

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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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Creating a Culture of Innovation using the Power of Play

LTP-logo-2Most companies and organizations know that in this fast changing and complex world, they have to create a culture of innovation to be able to sustain a healthy business.  A lot of time and effort is spent on creating new strategies, business models, structure, processes, technologies, tools, and reward systems, hoping that these will lead to success. Unfortunately, ‘invisible forces’ are responsible for the fact that 70% of all organizational change efforts fail.

The trick? According to Soren Kaplan, expert on innovation; “Design the interplay between the company’s explicit strategies with the ways people actually relate to one another and to the organization.”

Licence to Play is an innovative concept that identifies and engages your (5-10%)cultural change talents to make the needed  difference from within, using the power of play. Why Play?

Playfulness is something that we all are born with, it’s in our nature to play. Play is the fastest way to create the ‘soft stuff’ that drives innovation; openness, connectedness, collaboration, creativity & learning by doing.

Unfortunately Play is also something that people fear to express in their serious workingenvironment. Therefore I developed the concept ‘Licence to Play’ that allows people in organizations to open up, be playful and facilitate their co-workers to do the same. They literally get a ‘Licence to Play’, signed by the company director. With this licence they will be assigned to perform (secret) play missions and facilitate powerful playful learning games on relevant topics.

Are you ready to PLAY?

Here’s your secret Play Mission: http://youtu.be/Y0uWLHy-yo0

With Playful greetings,

Annemarie Steen

Does your company have a Licence to Play?

playful officeWhen you look at outperforming companies like Google, Zappos, Virgin, South West Airlines and Mindvalley (Malaysia), there’s one thing they have in common. They invite and promote playful behaviour of their staff. Why? Because they know that playfulness is the fastest way to create openness, connectedness, collaboration and creativity; attributes that are needed now more than ever to create innovative products and memorable customer experiences. And their numbers show that it pays off in profits.

Still, work and play are seen as opposites in most companies. In my work as a facilitator of Playfulness and Playful Learning in business, I see that most adults have a huge fear of playing. Play is seen as something childish, not done, crazy, non serious and only permitted among good friends or on the sportsfield. What would happen if companies would invite play to the workfloor, allowing it, or even better; promote it!

More and more research is showing that bringing positive energy in organizations leads to more flexibility and better results in a complex environment.

spelen kantoor

So how do you get the people in your organization to play more? I developed a brand new learning concept: Licence to Play. A three month program for a selected group of people; the most suitable ones for becoming a positive leader and secret change agent.

Interested to learn more about this Play inducing program?

Contact me for a secret meeting…J

With playful greetings,

Annemarie Steen

annemarie@steentrain.nl

99 Tiny Games Project in London Brings Play to the Streeets

I wish more city’s would adopt this playful & fun concept.

Mental Flowers

Sometimes we just need a little spark to get us to play.

In 2012, Hide&Seek installed 99 tiny games around London:

http://hideandseek.net/projects/99-tiny-games/

Tiny Games began life at the Southbank Centre in 2011 and are a collection of very small, very quick-to-understand games. They sit in the real world, inviting participation from any interested passer-by. Their rules can be summarised in just a couple of sentences.

In the spirit of the “big” games in London this summer, Hide & Seek created 99 wee-tiny games and stuck them all over the city, transforming buildings, sidewalks, tube stations and more into impromptu game sites. The rules are all quick and simple and each game takes almost no time to play – anyone can play, anytime they want. Players will be tested on everything from wits to creativity to cooperation to determination, all within immediate reach of their home, workplace, or favorite pub.

It’s great…

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Playfulness connects – Make new friends in a ballpit

Today I came across this short video (thanks @aikjeboukaert) from Soulpancake. I love this stuff. Why? Because it represents my vision: Playfulness connects. If you get total strangers (but also co-workers, friends, colleagues or family-members) in a playful state of mind…real heart-to-heart connection takes place. Watch and see for yourself!!

Playfully Yours,

Annemarie Steen