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Organizational Play And Its Benefits For An Organization

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Being completely immersed in a task at a given moment with an energized focus and curiosity is characteristic of us “living in the now. ” In this very moment, we are transfixed in a manner wherein the heightened levels of attention allow us to process stimuli with a lot more clarity. Growing up, we often experienced this while engaged in the act of play.

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While in the act of play, we are open to new knowledge and that makes learning a lot simpler and quicker, not to mention long-lasting. It is an expression of who we are at the core of our being as it reveals what we choose to do not what we have to do. The act of play, therefore, provides the right kind of mental and physical stimulation that allows to really be immersed in the now. The emotions and thoughts experienced in such times have a multifold benefit to our minds and bodies, by acting as a catalyst to question and learn new things – it stimulates creativity, changes our perspective, increases mental flexibility, refreshes and recharges us. Hence, engaging in the act of play is that quintessential experience shared by people of all ages.

Play creates a world of its own by ‘doubling’ the actual world. Play as an act is seen more as a recreational and leisure activity than as a tool for learning and behavioral change. The dual nature of play seems to be limited to the academic sphere, especially that of children. However, play is slowly emerging as an important organizational phenomenon. There has been a gradual shift in its usage – several organizations and industries are beginning to reap its benefit by applying it as a tool to meet organizational developmental goals.

Organizational play can help with fostering innovation, motivation and flexibility among employees. In most studies play ‘inspires’ work and makes it more ‘creative’, it never takes over work and changes the way the organization operates, in a way that may go against managerial intent. Play on this account remains a tool, not an activity.

When elements of play are used to achieve organizational goals of for example creativity, then its ambiguity becomes apparent. This ambiguity of intentionality has led some scholars of organizational play to develop the concept of Serious Play. This concept has been defined as a situation in which participants accept the ambiguity regarding intentionality and engage in play to achieve serious results.

Scholars of organizational behavior have suggested that it is in play that organizational creativity is born. Playfulness and the ability to alternate between fantasy and reality is an important dimension of the creative personality. Arguing that play is a source of behavioral variety, researchers within organizational psychology have suggested that play promotes creativity by giving employees a legitimate excuse to behave in new and interesting ways.

Play encourages creativity by exercising the ability to let go, to suspend control temporarily and be open to new ideas or behaviors. In the safe and non-judgmental boundaries of play, habitual beliefs can be questioned which facilitates a shift of perspective to make new distinctions.

Corporates can benefit largely by applying these basic elements that constitute the act of play in their organizational settings to bring about behavioral alignment within the firm. They can in innovative ways help enhance customer loyalty, lure customers and provide more compelling mechanisms for retaining and encouraging talent, as well as help in areas of recruitment and hiring.

31 October 2020

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