Play as a design tool for leadership development in SA

It has been shown in Australian business that only 58% goes on work that adds “real value” to organisations, with the inefficiencies costing business $109 billion in wages every year.
The figures are, I have no doubt, similar in South Africa. In fact, according to the World Competitiveness Yearbook (2012), South Africa is rated 50 amongst 59 countries. When more than half of our time is spent on solving the wrong problem, surely it is time to try a different methodology?

It is frequently the case that in instructional design, a ‘red thread’ or programme director is used as the touchstone of meaning making in an organisational or leadership development process. Although this a fair way to increase the sensemaking and to develop the emergent outcomes (outcomes that only begin to appear once processes and conversations have begun), it is not enough to ensure we are focusing on the right problems.

I am currently in the middle of a MOOC on Creative Learning being run by MIT and there is an insight which I want to share. Mitchel Resnick argues that the pattern of learning in Kindergarten children are ideally suited to the needs of the 21st century.

The process that he has observed in children when they learn involves six moments:

  1. Imagine
  2. Create
  3. Play
  4. Share
  5. Reflect
  6. Imagine (again)

With my interest in Curiosity as a critical leadership development tool and the knowledge that we often focus on the wrong problems, I decided to experiment with his insights and used this process as a basis for the design of a one day Leadership Masterclass on Agility. I have just run it in Melbourne, Australia. Here is an example of one of the sessions in the day using Play as a design tool, matching exercises I would otherwise have run in a different order now in the structure of Play:

  • Imagine: X BELIEVES THE WORLD WOULD BE A BETTER PLACE IF…
  • Create: CHOOSING THE RIGHT PROBLEM TO WORK ON
  • Play: SPEEDBOAT CHALLENGE
  • Share: POWERFUL QUESTIONS
  • Reflect: CHOOSE ONE TO WORK ON AND WHY
  • Imagine: IF YOU COULD CHANGE YOUR LIMITING BELIEFS WHAT WOULD BE DIFFERENT – WALKING THINKING PARTNERSHIP

What felt different from this workshop to any other I had run was the investment by the participants and the amount of laughter it generated. Kindergarten kids laugh 250 times a day. Middle aged people laugh 15 times a day. We spend so much time trying to do everything and doing it faster and not enough time laughing, reflecting, enjoying, and focusing on the important. However, it was not only laughter it generated. Using Play as the basis for a structure really helped us get to the nub of some of the complex issues in a way which did not feel fearful. Instead it generated a depth and a focus for tackling serious problems that felt had ease and congruence.

From the experience of using Play as a design tool, it is my contention that PLAY has a profoundly important role to play when it comes to identifying, tackling and solving 21st Century problems in the world of Business, Government and Education.
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By Professor Elaine Rumboll: Managing Director, Elaine Rumboll and Associates. Elaine is a business strategist and an accredited LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Practitioner. She mixes the power of Play with academic rigour and practitioner application. Elaine will be speaking at our upcoming Chief Learning Officers Conference from the 9-11 October 2013 at the Fairway Golf Resort and Hotel in Johannesburg. Her presentation will focus on the power of play in building organisational learning. To learn more about this event – click here now.

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