The college students I teach often use the word "adult" as a verb — as in, "Adulting is hard." And it's true! Paying bills, showing up on time, putting other people's needs in front of our own (this is especially difficult for women) is hard work. That's why as we grow up and take on more responsibilities, it's easy to lose sight of the power of a child-like mindset, and how it can actually improve our productivity. Let's look at the research that tells us why.
In what might be one of my favorite research studies, scientists at North Dakota State University asked participating students, divided into two groups, to imagine their classes for the next day were cancelled. Then the researchers distributed a questionnaire to both groups asking:
They then had both groups complete the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking (TTCT), which measures creativity. It includes tasks like asking participants to come up with ways to make a simple toy more fun, or look at a picture and guess the story behind it.
So how did thinking like a seven-year-old change the results? The data was pretty impressive: students who approached the TTCT after being asked to imagine how they'd spend their day as a second grader scored significantly higher on the creativity test. The data seem to point to the fact that sometimes a simple action like switching to a "play" mindset allows us to be more creative, innovative and find more meaning in our work.
How to add more play in the workplace
Silicon Valley is famous for playful, often goofy, benefits in the workplace: Twitter provides a rock climbing wall for employees, Google workers can play volleyball on company courts, and countless other startups have added foosball tables and office chair hockey tournaments to their list of perks. But honestly, these amenities aren't practical for most companies. But fear not! Here are a few more sensible strategies to help ourselves and our employees achieve a more playful mindset:
Kristen Cozad of the National Institute for Play puts it best: "Many [people] grew up being told that to be good enough, to be competitive and find good jobs, to belong and have meaning, they had to be continuously measured and managed and meet standardized objectives," she said. "But now the rules have changed. Fifty percent of jobs will be lost in the next ten years to robotics and AI. Those who were measured and managed and driven by extrinsic reward and validation systems will now have to re-create themselves, find their way through play."
Sounds like pretty good justification for more play in the workplace if you ask me!
"You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation." — Plato
My students are right — adulting IS hard — which is why we shouldn't be so quick to make our workplaces into bastions of drudgery. Instead, adding some play to your workplace might be the perfect antidote to absenteeism, presenteeism and lack of innovation.
We've created a way to remove all the forced, lame elements that typically come with team building, and left in all the good stuff — like building trust and deep engagement: We do this through uniquely-designed scavenger hunts.
Co-founder Jill Hinton Wolfe is a communicator, entrepreneur and Army veteran who is passionate about designing surprising and unique experiences for her clients.