Make 2015 Your Year of Play

Play at Work

The Meaning of Life

Did you know that in Chinese, the word “business” is made up of two characters that translate to “meaning” and “life”?

Given that we spend more than 70% of our waking hours doing work or work-related activities, don’t you wish we could all make more of our meaning of life?

Come join me in an interactive presentation on Play to help take you and your team from good to great:

And if you can’t make it, don’t despair! You can watch the talk here filmed at Agile Cambridge 2014 and download the presentation complete with speaker notes to share with your colleagues and friends so that we can all make our work more meaningful.

What do Playmakers say? “Play once a day to keep the doctor and priest away!”

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Playmaking in Action!


“Screw work let’s play!”

Do you sometimes wish you could goof off work and play? If you want to find out more about the subject of Play, join us in an interactive presentation, inspired by the theory and experience of play where we’ll demonstrate why play isn’t just essential for creativity and innovation, but crucial to our survival and overall well-being.

We’ll begin with the definition of play and then investigate the relationship of work and play and demonstrate how, instead of being mutually exclusive, both are necessary for personal and group creativity and achievement. We’ll finish off with useful guidelines for bringing more play into your life. And if you play your cards right, you’ll leave with plenty of ideas to achieve your recommended daily amount of play!

Where can I see the interactive presentation live?
Hope to see you there!
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The Play Manifesto


Welcome to The Play Manifesto!

Since we take Play seriously around here, we’ve come up with our very own Play Manifesto. We define “Play” as an act when you have more fun than purpose. We’ve yet to come across play without some kind of purpose (including playing to relax!).

There are 4 key principles to the Play Manifesto.

Principle #1 – “Everyone’s invited”

Where there’s fun to be had, we believe it should be shared with as many people as there are who care to join in! As they say, the more the merrier!

Principle #2 – “An option not an obligation”

There are days when we don’t want to play and that’s okay. We believe everyone should have the choice of whether or not they play. Being forced to have fun isn’t play, it’s punishment!

Principle #3 – “Opportunity to give and receive”

Play requires interaction and exchange. We believe by actively seeking to give and receive, we create more opportunities to play for everyone!

Principle #4 – “Game-changing”

“Change the world through play!” We believe in the transformative power of Play and everyone has that power within them. Remember, “With great power comes great responsibility” so use it wisely!

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The Sorry Tale of the Sea Squirt


It’s time we went on an adventure under the sea! Do you see what I see? Can you spot the humble sea squirt with its green curliculies and orange form swaying about in the current?

Meet the Sea Squirt

The sea squirt belongs on evolution’s shelf of curiosities. In its juvenile form, it resembles a tadpole (much like what our ancestors would have looked like) preoccupied by two basic objectives. One, feed. Two, avoid becoming fish food. Eventually the juvenile sea squirt comes of age and implants itself on a rock where it will live out the rest of its days.

As an adult, gone are the days when the sea squirt had to dart about and explore the underwater world. Suddenly, life has just got real easy. Now it can sway merrily against the tide, safely anchored to its beloved rock, eating as much as it wants. Ad infinitum. Much like diners lifting plate after plate off a conveyor belt at a sushi buffet. Life is good.

Time passes and in a macabre twist of this terrible tale, the sea squirt devours its own brain and nervous systems since it no longer has use for them. Can you hear ringing? It sounds like an alarm to me.

Wonder me this

According to neuroscientist, Daniel Wolpert, the brain exists for one and one reason alone. Action. He goes on to surmise that action gives rise to all the “magic” we see around us. If this is true, and it makes perfect sense to me, play takes on even greater significance in our lives. Why? Because play is the catalyst that moves us to take action. And action results in magic. When was the last time you marveled at magic? Or have you been sitting on your rock for too long?

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What is play?

According to Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of the National Play Institute, true play is about fair play and being a good sport.

Play has a purpose

You know you’re in play when you have more fun than purpose. Many adults tend to view play as an activity that serves no purpose. That is simply not true. While play can appear to be purposeless, the converse is often closer to the truth.

You have to sign up for play

You cannot force someone to play. Play happens voluntarily. It has the power to attract our attention and captivate our imagination. According to the latest scientific research, human beings are the most playful species in the animal kingdom. We’re aren’t only inclined to play, we’re built to play!

Time flies by when you have fun

When we play, time seems to fly by. That’s because we become so engrossed in what we’re doing that we feel fully engaged. In an increasingly hectic world, Play is one way of keeping us in the present.

Play frees you from your inhibitions

What’s more, play frees us from feeling self-conscious because it requires our full attention. When we’re in play, there’s no time or spare mental capacity to worry about what we can or can’t do and what others think about us. Play frees us from our inhibitions so that we can let our hair down and fully be ourselves.

Play demands improvisation

Another fundamental characteristic of play is improvisation. Play is the arena where circumstance meets creativity and innovation to create opportunities.

Addicted to play

Last, but not least, play is addictive. Once we’ve experienced the fun of play, we want to keep going. As those who are serious about play will tell you, once you start, it’s hard to stop. Isn’t it time we all got back into play?

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A Playmaker is…

A Playmaker is like a hostess-with-the-mostess. Think Julia Child. They work hard to provide the ideal conditions of play. Most important of all, they invite instead of force people to play. Those who choose to join in are welcome to bring-their-own. And it’s up to them how long they stay. People decide for themselves what they give and what they take away.

Management guru Peter Drucker once said, “Organisations form and deform individuals.” To which playmakers reply, “It takes two to tango. Individuals allow themselves to be formed and deformed.”

Playmakers treat people as adults. Adults are responsible for themselves. That means taking responsibility for our own decisions.

Playmaking is a celebration of life. It’s a carnival and everyone’s invited. There are many kinds of people, ranging from Play Seekers to Play Skeptics. They usually fall into 4 distinct categories.

  • Type 1 players are those who can play and want to play.
  • Type 2 players can’t play and want to play.
  • Type 3 players can play and won’t play.
  • Type 4 players can’t play and won’t play.

Type 1s and 3s score high in their knowhow of play, while Type 2s and 4s score low. What separates those who want to play (Play Seekers – Types 1 and 2) from those who don’t (Play Skeptics – Types 3 and 4) is the desire to play.

Like many things in life, the desire to play begins with making a choice. Which type of player do you think stands the best chance of having the time of their lives, even when they’re at work?

You have to be in it to win it. Which type of player will you choose to be?

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A Playmaker is…

A Playmaker is not afraid of rejection or put-downs. We are brought up to believe that “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” but Playmakers know damn well that’s just a song we chant to children. Adults can be brutal.

When a Playmaker trips up, the first thing they do is check for damage. With their bones intact, they dust themselves off, ready to play again.

Over time, a Playmaker goes from leaping over muddy puddles on the way to work to crossing different worlds on the same office floor, bringing ideas and people together.

A Playmaker has the heart of a lion without needing to roar out loud. They hear the roar in their head when they are mad, sad or glad.

A Playmaker does one thing a day that scares them, all the while living and breathing the Playmaker Values. How will you scare yourself today?

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Where to start with Playmaking?

Playmaking is a great tool for problem solving. By adopting a playful mindset, we set aside our inhibitions and make room for creativity and innovation. Ezra Pound, a famous American poet once said, great poetry “makes things new”. By that he meant, showing people the hidden quality of common-place things. Funnily enough, this is exactly what Playmaking can help us do, too. It’s not always as succinct or elegant, but it’s a lot of fun!

Can you give me a concrete example?

Sure. One of my goals is to grow the local Agile community at work. We’ve been running “The Agile Experience” – an internal introductory course to Agile and Scrum on a monthly basis. Based on participant feedback, the course is a success. (Otherwise we would have stopped running it long ago and would be doing something else instead!)

The proof of the pudding is in the eating

How do we know the course is a success? For every course instance we run, at least one participant finds themselves bursting to tell us the same thing, “This is the best course I’ve ever been to. It’s practical, energetic and fun. Most important of all, the simulation is just like real life!”

The participants are referring to our home-grown handmade training course featuring the Scrum version of The Original XP Game created by two legendary Playmakers Pascal Van Cauwenberghe and Vera Peeters.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is how to leverage the shared learning experience from the courses we run in order to create a community that thrives and endures.

That’s where Playmaking comes in. Playmaking is founded on the 3 values closest to my own heart: Fun, Heart and Achievement.

If all this sounds like “innocent wonderment”, that’s because it is, although some people mistake it for naivete.

Alright already – so what’s the deal?

My answer is “Dear Santa”, of course! I’m sorry, did you say “Santa”? Yes, I did! What better time to practice Playmaking then during the jolly season of Christmas?

The Event
Dear Santa – The Agile Experience Alumni Gathering

Hear ye! Hear ye!
Calling all alumni from The Agile Experience. You’re cordially invited to witness, present and play at this exclusive event, run by participants, for participants.

The Challenge
You’ve attended the course. You’ve tried out a few things. Here’s your chance to share your experiences and progress to date. We can to hear the Good, the Bad and most definitely the Ugly.

The Format
Each presenter will have 5 minutes to share their story in which you’ll answer the following 3 questions:

  1. What did you learn from the course?
  2. How did you apply it?
  3. What were the outcomes and benefits?

The audience will have 2 minutes to ask questions. Each story is in the form of a classic Lightning Talk (inspired by my friend and colleague Sandro Mancuso, co-founder of the London Software Craftmanship Community)!

How can you be sure it’ll work?

Based on my knowledge and experience gained from all the fools’ experiments I carry out in the footsteps of Darwin. I’m happy to play the fool and learn lots as a result. There’ll be mince pies and fresh Belgian chocolates, too. What better time to make play than the festive season I say.

How can you apply Playmaking to your work today?

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What is Playmaking?

Playmaking is the act of transforming work through play. It’s play with a purpose, what I call “Deliberate Play”. It’s a simple idea that requires a desire for fun, great courage and respect for people.

Why is Playmaking important?

We have an emergency on our hands. Many of us suffer from a “play deficit”. Just as a vitamin C deficiency can have a wide-reaching impact on our overall well-being, so can a deficiency in play. The latest research by neuroscientists, biologists, psychologists, social scientists and many others show that Play isn’t only essential for human development, but crucial to our survival.

According to Dr Stuart Brown, author of “Play”, Play leads to creativity and innovation which, in turn, leads to invention and growth. Likewise, Work can lead to creativity and innovation. In addition, Work gives us a sense of purpose and helps us develop competence.

Surprise! Work isn’t the opposite of Play

So if Work isn’t the opposite of Play, what is? There is a growing consensus that the opposite Play is Depression. Now there’s a scary thought. But don’t worry, Sleeping Beauty. Treat this as an alarm call and start creating more opportunities to play at work today.

Practice Play little and often

Be wise in how you invest your time and remember: Take your Recommended Daily Amount of Play. Play once a day to keep the doctor and priest away!

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Welcome Playmakers!

The Power of Play – Making Good Teams Great 

Following the success of introducing the concept of Playmaking into the workplace at this year’s Oredev in Malmö, Sweden, this marks the start of a movement for incorporating more play into our daily work.
View more presentations by me on Slideshare. Full speaker notes are visible when presentations are viewed in Slideshare. Or download the presentation. and play. Happy Playmaking!
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