Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Creativity and Play - The Relationship

Remember when you were a kid playing outside in the sandbox. Did you recall any rules for play? Most people will say, no. But there were rules. If you played with trucks, then mostly you followed truck rules in sandboxes. Your child mind would roll the trucks over the sand, and not throw them. You would build channels with mud and bridges for the trucks. If you were playing GI JOE, then you would have a one figurine that eventually gets killed and melted by the sun through a magnifying glass. Again, you wouldn't throw the GI JOE's, they would be set up in mock battles. Thus, it is my belief that there were rules when you played. Is that a bad thing? NO!

Rules help set the stage. It makes people comfortable. They remind us how to operate. And the same goes for creativity. In this blog, I'm suggesting there should be rules for creativity. For example, when brainstorming, typically people don't just brainstorm about wild-ass ideas. They are trying to focus on a problem. Thus, when brainstorming happens, people automatically set the stage: "we need to think about this Bob, let's brainstorm about this..." But the other real question is, should we have all these rules and do they kill creativity?

Perhaps too many rules crush creativity, but that's not what I'm arguing. I'm suggesting that rules set the stage and allow people to create smarter. A good creative rule set like:

Brainstorming: pick a topic, write it on the board and ask people: what can you do with this. DON'T ask, what is the problem here.

Role play: once you have a topic, don't let someone "message" it to you. Ask them to role play it with you.

Play more: in the video below Tim Brown, Founder of Ideo, talks about creative play. In the video, notice the assignments he gives out, which I call "rules".

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