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    Nine Ways to Play at Work

    9waystoPlayatworkNine Ways to Play At Work (see list below)

    The idea that one should invoke a sense of play around challenges is not a new one. Tim Brown of IDEO did that great TED speech on play, and there have been several more TED play-centric talks (Stuart Brown, John Cohn, Sue Palmer) all variations on the theme. Sunni Brown’s talk on Doodling is a personal favorite because she gets specific about how one can begin to be more creatively playful with problem solving. An emerging trend in business is using improvisation games as the basis for team building and problem solving. The work of Del Close, who shaped the serious play of long form Improv and Viola Spolin, who invented Improv as an art form — is really about using play to learn. They both knew that access to your authentic spontaneous thinking power and play are intimately connected.

    My own work with KILN and our IdeaKeg service has to do with holistic play-like experiences that have people mashing up trends and concepts to innovate. This stuff works.

    All that said, simple more straightforward ideas for play in day-to-day behavior are harder to come by. That’s what this post is all about. I’ll also admit there is a bit of a smart-ass edge to my suggestions below. Because that’s how I play.

    Theory is grand, and, changing behavior is difficult. Playing at work is something that we’ve been trained Not to do and it takes active, daily, thoughtful effort to invoke play — especially when you  need it most — with a very serious problem or opportunity. Fear and judgment are the enemies of play and creative effectiveness. That’s why more play is so serious!

    Here are Nine Ways to play at work — in which you might do a better job of playing with concepts, challenges, ideas, and solutions. For the sake of brevity I won’t repeat that list, I’ll just say challenge.

    1. Start making unmerciful fun of the challenge. Out loud. Even if it’s sarcastic, bitter, or angry. Make jokes. It’s a start to playing when you exaggerate or ridicule. Exaggerate so much it makes you laugh because it’s absurd. When you start laughing about a serious challenge, you’ve made a good start. Now, this is best done by yourself or with a group who shares your fear. DO NOT do this to an idea that’s just come out of someone’s mouth. That requires a trust level you may not have. If you have a team that gets what you’re doing, do it. If they don’t get it, explain it first and try again. If they still don’t get it, do it on your own. Or, to hell with em, do it anway, with the group, offend!
    2. Explore the challenge in a visual way. Draw a picture of it with stick figures. Do a Mind Map or a wall mural. Use crayons and colored markers. Get out the scissors and glue and make a collage. It’s a step away from fear to invoke other modes of thinking. Making things visual is one way to do this. As Sunni Brown says, Doodle. Scribble. Draw a symbol, create a logo. Yes, a logo for the challenge. That’s playing folks.
    3. Explore the challenge in a physical way. This is almost never done, but find a way to physically explore the challenge. You might literally “walk through” a business process you’re trying to sort out. If it’s a product act out how it’s used, or actually use it. Use the product! Do bad mime if you don’t have it. When in doubt just take a freakin walk. Around the block. Through the park. In the woods. Try to relax and not think so hard about something, be quietly reflective. Walk a Labyrinth (click here for world locator). Here’s a stretch for some of you — create an interpretive dance. It will feel uncomfortable, tough noogies, you’ll laugh, you may get insights, and that’s the point.
    4. Make a sculpture of it with Play Dough or Model Magic. It’s strange how shaping a blob to mean something, even a conceptual thing that has no literal shape, helps you create a story about it. Many people are kinesthetic thinkers, if you’re one of them this is how you get your play mojo going.
    5. Flip it. Turn it on it’s head. Playing with a challenge means pushing at it’s edges or turning it upside down. “Wouldn’t it be awful if…” is a way to turn the downside into something positive. Here’s a bit more detail on this item.
    6. Look at it as if you were five years old. Or get an actual five year old, or even a ten year old, involved. They’ll see things you won’t. The obvious is often obscure to adults, we know too much.
    7. Look at it as if you are Ghandi. Or Jonathan Winters, or Obama, or Brene Brown. Or that wise teacher you had in eight grade. Put yourself in somebody else’s shoes and allow your thinking to be guided by their wisdom.
    8. Play out scenarios using Improv games. If you don’t know how to do this, hire some Improv actors, or hire a coach that knows how to use Improv games for problem solving. Here’s more detail on using Improv games. Or, just use a game from the Improv playbook as a way to warm up the group and get the team having fun.
    9. Gamify it, or make it a contest. Keep it light-hearted, this isn’t about winning, it’s about engaging with a concept. Fun competition is a way to reduce fear.

    So, there you have it.

    If you are looking for a really fun Keynote Speech, or Workshop. These nine items and the stories and hands-on exercises are meaningful fun. Get in touch! I’ll put play into your next meeting.

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    Innovation 2015 or Five Lame Excuses?

    Death or Kryptonite? I have a  vinyl record with one of those strategic skips that has it repeating — it drives me nuts — but I still play the record because I love the song so much. The song is Jimmy Olsen’s Blues by the Spin Doctors. It’s a hard rocker about the lament of Superman’s pal who has a crush on Superman’s gal. In the song Jimmy Olsen is competing with the man of steel for the affection of Miss Lois Lane. He’s got a secret weapon, a pocketful of Kryptonite. Innovation ca feel a lot like that — your competition is a big tough impossible-to-beat player like Superman. And no matter your size as an organization, you’d better be like




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    Four Criteria for Hiring an Innovation Speaker

    Four Criteria for Hiring an Innovation Keynoter Let this post work as a guide for meeting planners. You don’t have to hire me as your innovation speaker, but if you hire one, you’ll be well served if you pay attention to these four criteria and my comments in bold. Innovation is a complex, wonky topic and it has some special requirements that go beyond the classic things meeting planners look for in a speaker. Let’s keep this simple and as neutral as possible — my shameless personal plug is at the very bottom. I’m even going to suggest my competition here. So here goes, in my view an Innovation Speaker should: 1. Have a background as a successful entrepreneur and/or




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    Leaders Hate the Concept of Creativity

    SNARK ALERT I’m not trying to be snarky. I am snarky. I’ve always been snarky.  I like being snarky, it’s fun. Here’s the problem: Being snarky is a bit like being the boy that cried wolf. When you’re being a smart ass just for practice you often stretch the truth. Okay, I often throw the truth out the window to be funny or to shock — but not in this blogg! As a creativity and innovation writer I suppress my inner Snark in order to be taken seriously. But now I think I’m doing you a disservice. The value of SNARK is it can be a wakeup call. As an innovation thought leader, I’m here to help. You can improve, you can




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    Ten Ideas for Using Innovation Film Clips

    I’ve written an article on Innovation in movies — Inspiring Innovation Films: a Top Ten List.  It’s been published on the Innovation Excellence portal — I’d be most grateful if you’d read it and comment over there. Today’s post is a value add to that article with some ideas on how to use creativity and innovation clips in projects and meetings. If you’re an innovation educator, manager, or team leader you may want to consider using clips as training and/or stimulus tools. I’m a big one for keeping things entertaining no matter what you’re doing. Movie clips are a great way to do that. Here are Ten Ideas on how to integrate film clips into an innovation project: Send out a




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    Love a Meeting Planner Day

    As Valentines Day approaches I’m reminded that everybody needs love. Even Meeting Planners. I’ve worked with many different meeting planners over the years and it’s a tough job. Endless details. Complex challenges. Ego’s to manage. Negotiations. Speakers to hire (ahem). Clients to please. Sore feet. Migranes. Exhaustion. Pre-meeting anxiety, post meeting collapses. I do appreciate Meeting Planners, but I wouldn’t want to be one! And always the unexpected. No matter how well planned an event is, something always happens that is unpredictable. Meeting Planners are often very creative in resolving problems. So, today January 30th, is Love a Meeting Planner Day. Why? Because I said so. I declare it. How to show the love today?  Here are 10 ways: Thank




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    Ideational Speaker, Gregg Fraley

    I do keynotes on creativity and innovation topics — and this is not something I hide. It’s all over my website and I do my best to promote my speaking on FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and in my blog postings. So, it’s not unusual for me to be confronted — at a cocktail party or a business meeting — with the comment: So you’re a “Motivational Speaker.” It’s a fair observation, but it’s really…inexact when it comes to describing what I actually do. It’s not Wrong, but there’s more to my speaking than motivation. My talks are about ideas, so really, I’m an Ideational Speaker.  Yes, I make an effort to motivate people to be more creative and innovative. So, I




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    Spontaneous Thinking and the Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Jonathan Winters

    “If your ship doesn’t come in, swim out to meet it.” Jonathan Winters Last week, a personal hero of mine, Jonathan Winters, passed away. He had a long, full, complicated, crazy, and indeed, mad, mad, mad, mad, life. If you don’t know who he is or why I’d be doing a post about him in a creativity and innovation blog, please just go to YouTube and watch this. If you really want to snort milk through your nose, try this one. Winters was a comic genius, a creative tour-de-force, and, a man who “used” his affliction with bi-polar disorder positively. He was one of the first public figures to admit to treatment for mental illness having “gone to the zoo”




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    Destructive Intelligence Limits Innovation

    My illustrious partner at KILN, the subtly dynamic Mr. Indy Neogy, MBA, has penned a very insightful piece on how research and analytical intelligence actually hoses innovation. Hoses, a term I’ve borrowed from Bob & Doug McKenzie, means “screws up” or “ruined”. To read the full piece click here. I did an illustration to go along with the words, which I’m posting below because it’s a bit of fun.* By the way, KILN is an innovation services company — I’m proud to be a founding partner. Indy’s article and my illustration are to be found in KILN’s newsletter Kindling — brain food for your innovation efforts (sign up here to get it via email). That’s all for today folks, but read




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    Dying is Easy, Starting Creative Projects is Hard

    I’m in Cincinnati visiting for Christmas and coincidentally have been invited to the First Annual Cincinnati Comedians Homecoming Show. I’ll be going to Funny Bone Newport, KY tonight and hope to see a few of my old colleagues from the early 80’s, back when I was doing stand-up. People often ask me what doing stand-up was like, so, here’s the story, but with a twist. I’m going to relate it to starting anything creatively challenging. In the late 70’s and early 80’s comedy went from a somewhat quaint and staid art practiced mostly in the Catskills and New York City to something more akin to rock and roll. The influence of Saturday Night Live and the late, great, seminal comics




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