We have a new puppy.

And I am the one with puppy dog eyes – only my eyes are puffy like a pug, and I look a bit exhausted, and hers are bright and alluring. 

This puppy makes me silly. She loves silly, and I love her, so on it goes. Play for the sake of play –  crazy unstructured ridiculousness. It is both exhausting and revitalizing at the same time. Which made me wonder how can that be?

In university I took a course called “Theories of Play”. An elective meant to lighten my load – a “bird course”! If you wanted to make someone giggle or raise their eyebrows – you told them that yes, “Theories of Play” was a course that I was paying for. 

The course held many surprises – as play often does. And when the world surprises us we pay attention.

Now all these years later I am still paying attention because the fundamentals of this “bird course” ring true in a way that for me calculus never did, or will.

There is a direct relationship between play, creativity and the more business buzz-worthy word: innovation. Play often lets us break the rules and experiment with new conventions. (Which should not apply to puppy training!) It forces our brains to find new pathways and new solutions.

When we play we have no agenda, no outcome in mind, process is thrown to the wind. If you can’t go under, you go over, if you can’t go over you go through, and if you can’t get through well who knows what is next. Being surprised is the foundation of play.

 We love being surprised. How many of us remember buying the paper bag labelled the “surprise bag”? Or check out Jillian Harris’ outrageously successful launch of the Jilly box: 50,000+ people signed up to receive a box curated by Jillian Harris with no idea what was in it. Not only do we love to be surprised, we will wait hours and willingly pay for the thrill of it too!

The enticing nature of play is that it opens us up to new possibilities. It frees our mind from barriers so that curiosity and innovation reign. Play does not invite nay-sayers to the party! That in itself is revitalizing!

In the Scandinavian Journal of Education Research, Sandra Russ notes, “Central to both play and creativity is divergent thinking.” Her study revealed that “play can facilitate creativity as well as insight ability,” and that we can be taught to improve our play skills.

 As adults our play skills can get pretty rusty. Amanda Lang in her book “The Power of Why” noted, “70 percent of creativity is related to environment, which means that it’s entirely possible for just about anyone to learn to think more innovatively.”

How can we ramp up our play skills and create a more creative environment?

  • Ignore conventional wisdom
  • Get silly with your kids, your puppy, your friends
  • Listen to new music
  • Learn a new skill 
  • Be driven by enjoyment
  • Try a new board game
  • Hang out at a co-work space
  • Daydream
  • Encourage curiosity in others
  • Embrace not having the answer

As 2019 is coming to a close and I glance at my goals for this year, right at the top are the words: Play more! Who knew the abandoned pup we named Stella Polaris Lee, from Fond Du Lac, Saskatchewan would be the surprize that would help me to play more. And enhance my own creativity.

Get silly, be silly, invite silly and watch your creativity soar. And if that seems hard to do – get a new pup. 🙂