Category Archives: Play

Embodied, theatre, movement, dance, nonverbal, music dialogues

Designing for Play – How to Play your Work

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In the March DwD session with Farzad Sedghipour, we explored the importance of finding play in our work through a semi-structured facilitated workshop.  Roughly 20 members of Toronto’s innovation community attended, ready to design for play. The workshop was based on Farzad’s Strategic Foresight & Innovation project,  Play to Perform: Why Play is the Future of Work

Play is one of life’s top motivators, it is fundamentally collaborative, and we have to play in creative work.

The Process

“Work and Play are words to used to describe the same thing under differing conditions.”
-Mark Twain

The DwD workshop comprised several improv games; a short-discussion defining play, what it is and is not, the creation of individual Play Personalities through a Maker’s survey, and group games exploring the future of play at work.

Defining one’s Play Personality required individuals to reflect back into their childhood experiences and remember moments when they were fully immersed in an activity for its sake.  Participants were asked to also consider times they made a difference, what made them come alive in these instances, and what animal personalities and historical/fictional characters they identified with.

The final piece of this exercise was a magazine montage, in which participants created their play personality using magazine cutouts, to help them define what personality traits and attributes characterize them when they are in a state of play.

In the second exercise, we explored jobs many would consider “mundane” or “boring” – call center operator, assembly line worker, retail etc. –  and how we as managers might help our employees find more play within them.  We talked about how Toyota for example, injects play into manufacturing work through their Kaizen culture, which encourages employees to take ownership of continuous improvement initiatives and processes.  We talked about how a call center might “playify” its work to A/B test various strategies, while enabling staff to have fun and produce more great work.  In general, we talked about how managers can give employees more agency and control over how they do their work, in order to cultivate a play mindset in their employees.

Rank your top 2 drives to play are:

  • The Joker: loves nonsense, and practical jokes as an adult
  • The Kinesthetic: needs to move (to think); loves being in their body: dance, swim, yoga, walk
  • The Explorer: Actively seeks out new experiences, be they physical, mental, or emotional
  • The Competitor: loves playing games to win, to be number 1
  • The Director: Enjoys planning and executing scenes and events. Born organizers, party givers; the world’s a stage and we are all players in the director’s game
  • The Collector: Have and hold the most, best, and most interesting objects: coins, toys, wine, shoes, ties, videos, music etc. can be solitary or social
  • The Artist/Creator: The maker, including painting, woodworking, pottery, and sculptor.. more recently, the programmer/developer
  • The Storyteller: Imagination is the key to this kingdom; novelists, playwrights, cartoonists, and screenwriters; Performer of magic tricks, lectures, dance and actingLeading with a play mindset is what creative entrepreneurs and master crafts people do explained Farzad, because for them, play is the work they would do even if no one required them to do it.

A few key insights that emerged were:

  1. Employing sensory props such as smelly markers, jelly beans, and balloons can nudge participants in more vividly recalling their childhood experiences,
  2. More opportunities to learn about the neuroscience and theory of play,
  3. and facilitate mad libs and co-creations to inspire more play-led activities.  

All great suggestions to think about, for how else could one consistently perform with vitality, creativity, and skill, without play.

ABOUT THE PRESENTER

Farzad is an economist and a futurist who is passionate about strategy and organizational design, play, and the future or work.  He thinks systematically and behaviourally to help clients find innovation opportunities between diverse values and interests. Farzad’s past experiences include 8-years’ leading economic research, organizational development and business design, and strategic-foresight projects for the private and public sector. He holds a M.A. in Economics & Finance and a MDes in Strategic Foresight & Innovation.

 

Innovate or Dinosaur! Serious Play for Innovation.

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September’s DwD explored the new board game (launched this week) by Traction Strategy, cheekily called Innovate or Dinosaur!  A truly collaborative innovation game, the playful approach helps teams generate and test new ideas, create a path to assess and implement them, and builds the capacity for organizations to “innovate everyday”.

Played by teams of 4 or more per table, the game is staged into two board and movements, Exploration and Evolution.   The  Explore board uses a standard die and chance to move players through a number of event and process cards that promote lateral thinking and exploration of your innovation ideas in novel, playful ways. gameboard

Players start by generating a set of proposed innovation proposals for their organization or projects that they choose to present in exploration with team members. Competition can be set up between groups and within teams in playful ways to drive the game process forward. We played with a time deadline model, where the first round of game play ended after 20 minutes and teams were credited with the number of innovation proposals explored within the period. Chance also played into some teams tackling fewer proposals, depending on board position and card actions.

Tamara and Shawna’s experience in innovation engagements with organizations led to creating a large catalog of provocations and lateral thinking concepts in the various process cards. Many of these are quite unexpected and fun, lending a real experience of surprise to the game proceedings.

The Innovate or Dinosaur game design is based on some of  the key ingredients for innovation identified in a study done on the innovation processes of  Nobel Prize Winners – some of  the most highly recognized innovators in the world. These key ingredients include: collaboration, competence, communication, vision, playfulness, and work (effort).

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A roomful of participants played through both boards of the game over a 2 hour + session, which was found to be insufficient time to explore more than one innovation proposal from each player. The game approach requires multiple rounds of ideation, and participants found real value in some of the idea development. By the end of the session, there was convincing evidence of the unique value of the gameboard approach and the value of the specific tools and processes built into the game.

Traction Strategy has since launched the game publicly, and the game is available and promoted at innovateordinosaur.com

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About the Hosts

Tamara Eberle, CPF, CTF, Founder and Director of Facilitation & Learning, Traction Strategy  and Shawna Eberle, Toronto-based Director of Traction Studio

tamTamara is an award-winning professional facilitator with over two decades of group leadership and process design experience. She is a Certified Professional Facilitator (IAF), Certified ToP Facilitator (ICA), has a degree in Sociology, and has specialized training in Public Participation (IAP2), Change Management, Design Charrettes (NCI), and organizational game design.

Traction Strategy is a multi-award winning, boutique consulting company providing Certified Professional Facilitation as well as leadership and organizational development training.  As experts with diverse, cross-functional teams and stakeholder groups, they use participatory methods and techniques to support teams and organizations while providing a meaningful experience.

Improvising Breakthroughs in Difficult Conversations

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How can we engage in difficult conversations in a way that is productive, satisfying, and even FUN?

How can we open ourselves to learn something new about the other person’s perspective?

What is the difference between a response and a reaction?

DwD-Lauren

Lauren Stein presented an interactive, experiential exploration of “difficult conversations” at November’s DwD, engaging about 30 people in playful ways to approach these conversations – expressed as speaking and listening to concerns about criticism, personal emotions, relationships, money, and fears. Using the tools and experiences of improvisational theatre, Lauren showed us how to slow down conversations to separate reactions from responses. The goal of experiential learning was to identify and use internal information, both intellectual and emotional, to construct respectful responses rather than triggered or knee-jerk reactions.

Lauren emphasized the  philosophy of “Yes/And” as a relational tool, a way to stay on the same side of the other person, even if we disagree about a particular issue.  The exercises – from opening circle to improvisational conversation theatre – all reinforced the importance of an open and curious attitude.

From the very start, the OCADU Auditorium was buzzing with discussions, from the introductions, to paired exchanges into questions, to exercises exhausting the imaginative space of asking questions.

Some participants were asked deep questions and discovered things they did not know about themselves. People learned and took home new games for conversational exploration, such as the Curiosity Game and the Questions Game (based on the idea of asking your partner about anything you’re curious about). One couple even reportedly resolved a personal dispute just by using the improv principle of “Yes, And.”

Hobeen-Peter

The final exercise involved volunteer demonstrations of improvised conversations between participants acting out scenes drawn from their own feeling states.

Here two DwD participants, Hobeen and Peter improvise an emotional exchange between a worn-out boxer and his coach, both struggling with the will to win and the meaning of the match. Lauren skillfully set up the pair to adopt postures and positions, wait for the impulse, and to create the context and conversation as it emerged.

Lauren reminds us that sometimes the highest we can achieve from a difficult conversation is to understand the other person’s point of view and remain respectful.

 

About the Host

Warrior Woman-sm

Lauren Stein is director of Laurentina’s Improv Club, where she performs and facilitates improvisational theatre experiences. She has taught and performed all over the world, including Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Ireland, and Switzerland. With a Master’s in Expressive Arts Therapy from European Graduate School, she helps people awaken their creativity and overcome life’s hurdles through play.

Creative Leadership for Climate Change

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Creative Leadership for Climate Change at the Intersection of Art & Neuroscience

By Kelly Okamura and Don Officer

Except for a few stubborn holdouts most of us are convinced climate change is something serious to be concerned about. But where do we start? At week’s end we barely have energy enough to sort out the blue boxes and the green messages.

This is the big issue governments and interest groups must contend with individually and will again collectively at the Cop21 climate change summit this year in Paris. Our guest presenters this March have been exploring ways to meet that challenge and are hoping to showcase a few at the upcoming summit.

Scott Baker and Ross Curtner of Adjacent Possibilities led the DwD participants on March 11 in a mindfulness-oriented dialogic session that built on personal engagement. During the evening they demonstrated several ways to concentrate our skills and capacities in a group setting.  At the summit their team plans to use wearable EEG technology to assess participant mindfulness.  At March’s DwD we discovered how effectively the practice could focus on what matters to any group.

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Our session began with a classic mindfulness practice: imagining a raisin. We pondered the qualities of raisins and recalled personal memories of raisins.  Then we experienced a raisin through guided practice. The raisin exercise led to partner work dialogue on climate change. Impressions were articulated, recorded and plotted on a grid divided into abstract-concrete, and engaged-disengaged quadrants.  Everyone shared in open session before splitting again into groups of four to consider the big question, “How might we most meaningfully engage mindful participation on climate change?”

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The consensus was we had participated in a successfully led, thought provoking dialogue offering new ideas, new “adjacent possibilities” as we contributed to the Paris project.  I left with my own insights on engagement with “wicked problems’” that seem to offer no openings or purchase.  I wish the team success in Paris.

 

ABOUT THE HOSTS

How do we experience climate change? How does the nature of our experience influence our ability to take action? How might insights from art & neuroscience inform our leadership on the issue?

March’s DwD  was hosted by Ross Curtner and Scott Baker of Adjacent Possibilities.  Drawing inspiration from systems thinking and game design, the session provided participants the opportunity to prototype the mechanics, dynamics and aesthetics of renewed relationship with this complex issue.

At heart, Ross Curtner is a facilitator, curator and purveyor of purposeful play. Putting these passions to work he’s lead strategic planning retreats for cleantech investment and business development groups, designed leadership experiences for arts foundations, consulted for government and recently, co-founded Adjacent Possibilities, an agency which connects artists and entrepreneurs to enable new approaches to complex challenges. An alumni of MaRS’ Studio Y Fellowship, he previously worked at The Stop and Community Food Centres Canada. When he’s not scheming of creative ways to address big issues, you can find Ross exploring Toronto’s forests with the PINE Project. @RossCurtner

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Scott Baker was raised on wind-licked west-coast of Vancouver Island and has since been working at the intersection of climate policy and civic engagement with the Canadian and European Green Parties, Leadnow, and Tides Canada. Currently Scott is a StudioY Fellow at MaRS Discovery District and the co-founder of Adjacent Possibilities.

 

The Wisdom of Movement, Song and Story: A DwD Workshop in InterPlay

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Last February 11, Rehana Telpara guided a smaller group of DwD session participants in hybrid forms of reflective play call Interplay. Rehana introduced herself as an InterPlay leader in training, with more modesty than necessary led us through a series of exercises that awakened the playfulness in everyone there. Emotional interactions occurred and we left more relaxed, connected with one another and aware that we had shared an experience with everyone in the room at a meaningful level.

We began with a series of gibberish vocalizations that engaged us all in uttering and attending to what initially seemed out of context, content free nonsense. Seemed, but wasn’t really. Rehana who is clearly one of this world’s genuine seekers, brought us face to face (literally) with the simple truth: whenever someone interacts, however loosely, with another, communication happens.

Following reflection, we moved into movement in pairs, suspending an imaginary beam of energy between each other while carefully moving. This activity continued into a journey around the room inspired by the music being played. We moved from this activity into more personal explorations through floor based movement. We then convened and had a dialogue about the experiences, which sparked a number of interesting reflections by participants, making connections to personal events and fields of psychology some had been exploring. We finished the session with the group harmonizing our voices, an activity that had a spiritual quality, and ended the session beautifully.

During the session we learnt of Rehana’s own journey to Interplay, through a trip in the Himalayas where a gentle woman named Neesha described this systematic, yet spontaneous approach to basic dialogue that connects without confronting the other. Again, as the DwD website announcement explains, we need to recover that ability lurking mischievously dormant in all of us: “to laugh, savor and relax.” Interplay’s own website, www.interplay.org gives a fuller picture of the process we sampled at DwD.

In InterPlay, we pause to notice our physical experience. One thing we notice is that affirmation (versus critique) produces more of what we want! We often invite people to witness others or to be witnessed as they practice an InterPlay form. In InterPlay, witnessing means, first, noticing my own physical experience as I watch and listen and, second, affirming the person I have witnessed by telling them my own physical experience in just a few words or images. There are two reasons for this: 1) Most people find at least one of the forms we teach to be pushing the envelope of what they think they can do. When they are witnessed doing it and affirmed doing it, they begin to experience themselves as actually able to do it. If that were all (achieving some internal sense that I am able to do something I could not do before), it would not be enough, but it isn’t all. I have seen over and over again how people actually blossom in this process. They seem magically to create works of beauty and power that were unimaginable earlier. 2) Equally important, the witness has an experience of his or her own.  Tom Henderson, “How Interplay Can Help Your Organization”

“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the object it loves” – Carl Jung

 ABOUT THE HOST

rehana

Rehana Tejpar is a mother, dancer, theatre artist and community arts facilitator dedicated to staging stories of social importance, and evoking community dialogue. Using popular education, Theatre of the Oppressed and Art of Hosting techniques, she has been designing curriculum and facilitating leadership programs with young women, children and youth in Canada, Kenya and India for the past 10 years. Since 2011 she has been playing with InterPlay and is currently a leader in training. She is an active performance artist in dance-theatre and is currently working on Eventual Ashes’ Ocean Carving: A Performance in Water, to be performed in the 2015 Rhubarb Festival.

Rehana and her colleague, Agnotti Cowie have scheduled a three day “untensive,” they call “Unlocking the Wisdom of Your Body: Toronto InterPlay Art and Social Change” March 27 – 29, 2015. For more information, contact: rehana.tejpar@gmail.com