Why I think we should value play

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This September, I am honoured to have been accepted to speak at the European Business Analysis Conference in London. My title is “The Playful BA”.

People who already know me absolutely got why this is my subject! I try to incorporate fun into everything I do, even within a business context. I had a roundabout way of getting to the point of being a freelance business analyst and facilitator (a friend said it is unrepeatable – I like that) but it has always involved improvement and fun.

By: George Mannion
We learn some of the most important things when we are still children. Speaking, walking, reading, writing, maths, survival, shoelaces. We know that a good way to get kids to engage is to make something fun. And it works. Then we go to high school to prepare us for work and this happens…“Look what the educational system does to creativity. Every child learns at a very early stage that when they’re asked a question in school they must first ask themselves a question: What answer does the asker expect? That’s the way you get through school, by providing people with the answers they expect. Now, one thing about an answer that somebody else expects is it can’t be creative because it’s already known. What we ought to be trying to do with children is get them to give us answers that we don’t expect—to stimulate creativity. We kill it in school. ” – Dr. Russell L. Ackoff 

Firstly, fun doesn’t (and shouldn’t) negate the fundamentals. It is just another option for approaching tasks. As well as my general interest in being playful, I started to research the psychology of businesses, groups, and individuals. Human interaction and communication underpins most of what I do. I may help to design websites and applications but I am doing it with the needs of how a human will interact. I have often worked in groups as a facilitator or analyst and tried to get as much information out of the attendees but there are various barriers.

Using play has been a tool to break down barriers. Some of the barriers have been

  • there is a dominant person who prevents others from speaking
  • because more introverted people may not be comfortable sharing information uninvited
  • the group is suffering ‘groupthink’ with the assumption that everyone is agreeing
  • lack of awareness of their own tacit knowledge
  • general boredom

My facilitation kit has become massive but it is worth it. I have boxes of toys to fiddle with, crayons and colouring books, fuzzy felt, craft paper, Lego and pens. Giving a fun task to a group and empowering them to be as abstract or literal as they feel fit is a beautiful thing.

It isn’t just me who thinks this way, large software organisations, education institutes and the corporate world are recognising the freedom and financial benefit in play and I hope to share my insights at the conference and at the pub 🙂 In fact, just come ask me, it’s hard to shut me up!


For details of the conference, click here. | Original Version of this article is here.

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