While change has always been a necessary component of business, never before has the pace of change come at organizations as rapidly as it is occurring today. To survive, leaders need to engage their employees in the creation of an “adaptive culture.” Without a resilient and adaptive culture, organizations are finding it increasingly hard to compete, let alone to jump ahead of the curve. According to Gene Jones, creator of the Triviation program for corporate training and an expert on breakthrough thinking, one of the greatest answers to this challenge is play. In a recent interview, he proposed the following six steps that businesses can use to leverage transformational play for building the adaptive cultures they need to develop as a foundation for long-term success:
1. Open the Door
How does leadership open the door to creative thinking? Adaptive cultures focus on creativity, and they foster freedom of thought and expression among employees. They allows ideas to flow up and down the chain of command, thereby providing a wider spectrum of fresh concepts to fuel productive change. Adaptive cultures encourage breakthrough thinking at all levels of the workforce, which greatly expands the mental resources that become available for maximum use. Adaptive cultures adore flexibility. In an environment of accelerating change, flexibility is essential. Without it, companies are left scratching their collective heads as the competition speeds past.
“This is the corporate version of Darwin’s survival of the fittest,” Jones says. “Thinking outside the box has given birth to modern titans such as Google and Apple. The same dynamics hold true for smaller companies as well. Flexibility opens the door for innovation, and innovation is as central to the success of any sized company as the wheel is essential for any sized automobile.”
Inspiring breakthrough thinking within an adaptive culture is a formidable challenge. Standard business structures frequently inhibit the development of flexibility, and the regimen of daily responsibilities often precludes the development of new thinking. Great leaders are seeking new methods to nurture this need. One of the answers is play.
2. Learn to Play with a Purpose
Jones maintains that one of the most exciting ways to create a more adaptive company culture is the use of transformational play, which involves the use of entertainment and games to achieve serious business goals. It is ‘play with a purpose’. Used wisely, it becomes a powerful training tool that leads to greater creativity and productivity.
Since transformational play is not judgmental in nature, it minimizes participants’ fear of being criticized or embarrassed, which is the most prevalent inhibitor of open communication in most companies.
There are six initial steps in the transformational play process, Jones says:
Play a specifically designed gameShare relevant informationAsk QuestionsFocus on DirectionDecide on course of ActionWork on details of Action Phase
3. Encourage Expansive Thinking
While transformational play can take many forms, Jones points out that the trivia game show format is evolving as a surprisingly effective tool. The advantage of using trivia games as the ‘play’ vehicle is that the company can imbed targeted information within the game itself, thereby accelerating the learning curve and encompassing the first two steps of the creative process.
By inducing what is known as ‘asymmetric thinking’, he says, strategically designed trivia games can lead participants to make new connections between previously known data points and creative ideas. Asymmetric thinking differs from linear thinking in that it causes the brain to fire in random patterns (in technical terms, it leads to greater neuroplasticity in the brain). By presenting different types of information in quickly changing random sequences, trivia games are highly effective at triggering asymmetric thinking. These random patterns access dormant mental connections in participants’ brains, and, of course, triggering asymmetric thinking in individual group members can lead to stronger and more inspired brainstorming sessions as well.
4. Start Listening
When targeted properly for the demographics of a group, a trivia game show highlights experiences that participants have in common. This helps to inspire better conversations and improved listening, and acts as a community building experience that helps groups to function better as teams.
For example, consider the possibility of turning the kind of information you would usually communicate in a Power Point presentation into a game show instead. This can make the information more memorable, thereby increasing its retention and use. Management has to remember that they have an important role to play in the evolution of an adaptive culture as well: they must listen actively and must be responsive to the ideas and suggestions that arise from their newly empowered personnel. As transformational play creates a more adaptive culture, it requires the active participation of management to continue and sustain itself after the learning activities are done.
5. Be Strategic
Companies can apply transformational play to any business challenge, such as ideation, product development, problem-solving, sales, human resources, in addition to refining corporate culture. The increased levels of creativity and expression can lead to epiphanies not only in the idea stage, but also in the action phases of any project.
6. Use Play As Practice For Change
The relatively new mantra of ‘play first to drive success’ is one that every organization should consider. Adding strategic playfulness into the mix of serious business is part of the arsenal today’s companies require to succeed in the changing landscape of modern economics. Those who ignore the benefits of transformational play in preparing and rehearsing for change may find themselves wondering why they have fallen behind.
To summarize, the advantages companies gain from the strategic use of transformational play include the following:
Facilitate healthy corporate culture
Foster communication and team building
Reinforce knowledge and clarify concepts
Increase productivity and growth
Enhance leadership skills and effectiveness
Streamline business operations
Improve competitive strategies