Habits to Spark Creative Genius

Play: The Elixir of Creativity

What if we could change the world through play?

By Jeannine McGlade & Andrew Pek | Posted 8/15/10 | Updated 10/5/20

What if we could change the world through play? Or stimulate our creativity with humor? What if how we imagine was recognized as being more important than what we know?

According to Plato, "You can learn more about a person in one hour of play than in a year of conversation." Since the beginning of time, play has been an important way for humans to express ourselves, unwind, and create. Historically, humans have used some form of play to act out our stories, experiences, and rituals. From art on caves to the epic Olympic games of Greece, play is part of who we are and how we express our creative energy.

From an evolutionary standpoint, research shows that if we frequently play, our cerebellum (a region of the brain that plays an important role in the integration of sensory perception and motor output) will increase in size. Whether we pursue it through dance, theater, sport or using Koosh balls in a meeting, play is an essential part of human nature and can help us to conceptualize, experiment, manipulate, and build something more effectively.

To spark and activate our creative side, we must be willing to summon a childlike self with a fearless and unrestricted attitude that allows us to take risks, have fun, be in the moment, and exercise our imaginative spirit. Unfortunately, many of us feel inhibited — especially when it comes to mixing work and play. But play is serious business! In fact, organizations around the world are recognizing the importance of play to their bottom line. Take Southwest Airlines, for example. Part of its explicit point of view states that individuals will rarely succeed at what they set out to do, unless they are having fun doing it. We couldn't agree more!

The Essential Habit of Play

Having fun through play is the means to accessing your creative energy. Play is an essential habit, therefore, in sparking your creative genius. So, the question becomes, how? How do we manifest play in our daily lives and make it a habit? Ways that we build our play muscles are outlined in our book, Stimulated! Habits to Spark Your Creative Genius at Work and we've outlined some of those tips here:

Give yourself permission to play.

What is it that will get you into a "playful" state of mind? Answer that question, then do it! Often times, we don't even allow ourselves the luxury of thinking about playing, let alone actually engaging in play. Give yourself permission today.

Carve out specific time for play everyday.

To get good at anything, we need to build the conditions to help form habits. Play is no different. If you want to "play" on a regular basis, you need to be intentional about when you will play and what you will do. Schedule play into your day as a priority.

Try something new.

A new game, approach, a new food — anything that will get you in a "curious" state of mind. With that curiosity you will find learning. Being an engaged learner means that you are willing to take a little risk and try something out. Remember that childlike sense of self — fearless and unrestricted, willing to try new things and uninhibited in doing so. So, go ahead, be fearless!

Have a playful attitude.

If you want to be more playful, don't take yourself too seriously. Humor is one of the main staples of play. In fact, not only is humor a great way to play, it's good for you! Researchers Shammi and Stuss maintain that "humor [is] a mechanism for coping with daily stressors." What's not to like about that?

Get lost in daydreaming.

Did you know that psychologists estimate that one-third to one-half of a person's thoughts while awake are daydreams? That's a lot of daydreaming going on! So, why not make the most of that time? Daydreams help us make new associations and connections. In fact, some of our greatest thinkers (Einstein, for example) were notorious for letting their minds wander to come up with big ideas. So, let your mind wander, grab a journal and record your daydreams — you never know where that next big idea will come from!

So make a commitment today to add more play into your daily life — whether at work or at home. Maybe we can't change the world, but maybe we can make our own world a little more, well, playful.

©2010 Jeannine McGlade & Andrew Pek. All rights reserved.

Habits to Spark Your Creative Genius

Jeannine McGladeJeannine McGlade and Andrew Pek are authors, speakers, trainers, and thought leaders in making innovation and creativity a habit. more