Toying with innovation

An innovative thinker knows that transforming work into play not only makes it less tedious but also results in fresh solutions and insights. Making work playful does not make it frivolous but instead yields an output, which is fresh and radical. In our Master’s class, we use such play techniques almost in every module to reach innovative solutions to our client’s problems.

Our most recent project that was facilitated by Liat, Catarina and Serena had a fun and engaging “Dreamer’s” phase. We experienced new ways of looking at problems and having fun while doing it. At the onset of the phase, we saw that it’s not that easy to stumble into a ‘dream of fresh ideas’ on a sleepy Monday morning, specially inside the grey box we call our classroom.
Michael Schrage truly said:

“Serious play is not an oxymoron; it is the essence of innovation.”

So, to create the dreaming mindset we employed facilitation games to gear up against the depression the Milanese weather tried to rain down on us with its dark clouds and wet snow. We began by playing the ‘pretend’ game. Now, the grey room vanished into a beautiful green field, with a clear blue sky, bright shining sun and white cirrus clouds. Soon, reality stared back at us, cold, hard, grey and sleepy, laughing. We saw that imagination was clearly not doing the trick. For it to work, we needed to be free and let our selves go – therefore, to lose our inhibitions we decided to play some fun games. We ended up slipping on banana peels, walking on ice, dancing, running and moonwalking all over the room.

“To an unassuming spectator, we’d look like a bunch of wonky grownups behaving like 4 years olds kids at a birthday party on a sugar high.”

It was fun and had us all laughing by the end. The rest of the day saw us sit in a circle on a colorful garden mat, wear masks, blow bubbles, play with balloons, make noise, dance and whistle.
However, it was not all fun and games-  By afternoon, we had 38 ideas, clustered, grouped and mapped for the next few days of exploration. Then, after 2 weeks of verification and prototyping we emerged with one strong idea, which will doubtlessly be associated with the buzzword of todays time innovative’.
Gamification of our thinking, combined with facilitation games and techniques result in an environment and mindspace for creative thinking and collaboration- the cornerstones of innovation.