3 ways playtime can inspire new ideas and new ways of solving business challenges

Playtime - selection of lego pieces

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could tap back into our imagination when we need it most – say, when we’re asked to solve a particularly thorny business problem?

According to Johan Roos, it’s entirely possible, and all it takes is the same sort of activities that spurred our creativity as kids. In other words, playtime. Johan is the co-inventor of LEGO Serious Play, a hands-on workshop and methodology designed to help business leaders innovate through playtime. In practice, it involves using actual LEGO blocks to build things – anything – during management training sessions. But, on a deeper level, it’s about unlocking your ability to be creative by interacting with physical objects.

Johan explained the power of play for leaders in a recent interview for The Emerging World of Work podcast. We covered the story behind the methodology’s creation, the science that underpins it and the way he developed it over time. You can listen to the entire interview here: “Unlocking Innovation with the Power of Play.”

We discuss the benefits of play in great detail in the full episode, but I wanted to share a few quick takeaways here.

  1. We learn with our hands: The power of play has to do with a learning theory called constructionism. In short, when we work with our hands, we’re able to open opportunities for discovery and engagement that make it possible to learn new things – and to create.
  2. Toys can be tools for having hard conversations: Somehow, when they’re playing with LEGOs (or any other toy) during these training sessions, managers find it easier to have disagreements and work through tricky problems. It seems that there’s something about constructionism that defuses or eliminates the common defenses that can otherwise thwart difficult, but productive conversations.
  3. Play is more important than ever: Johan developed LEGO Serious Play during the heady Dot Com boom, when businesses were struggling to keep pace with rapid change. Sound familiar? He believes that this methodology is even more relevant in our current business climate, when leaders are challenged to be more innovative and creative every minute.

I know from our work at Emergn that lots of leaders find it hard to conceive new ideas, articulate a problem or think of impactful solutions. Johan’s message is an encouraging one: that somewhere in our minds sits the same imagination and creativity we had as kids. Back when thinking outside of the box wasn’t a problem – because we didn’t even know there was a box in the first place! That inner creativity is ready to go to work in solving our biggest business problems. We can unleash it through play.

Listen to my entire conversation with Johan Roos on The Emerging World of Work. “Unlocking Innovation with the Power of Play” is available to download on any podcast player, including Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and Spotify.