Power of Play

How many of your colleagues have you worked with for years, but yet don't really know? How can you use play to help your team discover more about each other and connect?

When people get dressed for work, the outfits selected often get topped with a few layers of self-protection. Depending on the culture of the workplace, this armor can get thicker over time preventing authentic connection, trust, and effective collaboration.

Play can help. We see it every time we introduced juggling and other skill toys to a team. As the workshop progresses, sleeves get rolled up and the armor comes off layer by layer as groups laugh together, and struggle together. That's when people can't help but let their true self show.

Just think back to your time on the playground as a child. Whether negotiating rules of a game, daring each other to new feats of skill, or competing together as a team, you learned quickly which kids took risks, persisted in the face of failure, and/or had your back.

A powerful moment for understanding how play fosters vulnerability and connection came during my first year of teaching high school. I asked Paul came to come in to teach juggling to my students. A bit of a stretch in terms of curriculum connections, but imagine an exhausted new teacher the week before winter break. I needed it!

What started out as an act of desperation, however, became a huge ah-ha moment for me. Watching my students learn a physical skill for the fun of it gave me a whole new insight about their personalities and learning hang ups that I hadn't seen in the first several months of teaching them. And they saw each other in a new way, too.

We had been doing class discussions and group projects, but the quality of those changed after this class. I had been asking them to work with each other for months, but hadn't taken the time to foster the trust among them that was needed. This one hour juggling class session accelerated that process significantly.