Conceptual Element: Play = An Investment Strategy

Grant McCracken wrote in Harvard Business Review about Play as an Investment Strategy.

I read his blog regularly and the post that directed to this article caught my attention because of the fun that the Sterling employees had.

I think we can suggest a model that shows how the value created by mannequins ends up on the bottom line. Sure, it will look a bit Rube Goldberg-esque. But let’s try.

The mannequins begin with an act of unlicensed “borrowing.” This gives a tang of illegality (or “liminality”, as it’s called in anthropology) to the proceedings. It’s no longer business as usual.

Posed around the office, the mannequins are anomalous. What are they? Why are they reconfigured, dressed, and or gesturing that way? This provokes questions, conversations, and eventually play.

People begin to find away of making the mannequins mean . . . something, anything. Dress them, decorate them, reassemble them, reassign their identities, give them secret identities, build stories around them, tell jokes at their expense, and otherwise save them from their composure.

Most of what this office does is work performed to client expectation, under pressure, to a deadline. These mannequins don’t come with a deadline. This activity is pure play, creativity for the sake of it, so the mannequins get quite a lot done even when they’re just standing there.

Sterling is of course a creative enterprise, so anything that revivifies and animates the creative process is a good thing. This isn’t distraction and it isn’t tomfoolery. It restocks the good fellowship and creativity on which Sterling depends.

And then he goes on to explain why mannequins such as those borrowed from the neighboring business DON’T belong in every Sterling office.

Play, remember, is one of the seven Conceptual Elements I’ve been touting in my FYC classes.

I think this shows both play and innovation, using play as a means of rejuvenating the workplace. These are the aspects which I am trying to introduce my students to within the classroom.

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