Tag Archives: playfulness

Why allowing your team to fail can help it succeed

hands-people-woman-workingFrom the mailroom all the way to the C-suite, employees have developed an exceptional capacity for reading between the lines. The boss or the shareholders may say they want innovation, but the unspoken message may be, “but only if it’s risk-free.” If we want innovation, we have to tolerate risk, and we have to make it safe for our employees to take those risks. When corporate leaders make it clear in their words and actions that employees aren’t expected to be perfect–that “mistakes” are not only acceptable, but are indeed just part of the process of getting to winning ideas and products–then employees can relax in a way that supports their own creativity. And when employees get creative, innovations can happen.

Cirque du Soleil, which reinvented the traditional slow-growth genre of the circus and in doing so became a multinational company with four thousand employees, twenty simultaneous shows running worldwide, and one hundred million spectators in less than twenty-five years, embraces risk taking and sees occasional failures as simply part of the creative process. In an interview, Lyn Herward, president of their Creative Content Division, explained that at Cirque du Soleil “employees are offered the protection and support that they need to take risks on the company’s behalf.” Successes and failures are seen as the result of a team effort, and this reduces the fear or shame that is associated with personal failure. As a result, individuals feel encouraged to take risks and even protected from adverse consequences

Making failure an acceptable part of the creative process is also a core value at Mango, a men’s and women’s fashion company. Founded in 1984, Mango now has the biggest design center in Europe in a highly competitive industry, and is present in ninety-one countries, with 1,220 stores and 7,800 employees. Mango explicitly promotes, “the practice of a culture of mistakes” in their written policies, or more explicitly, ”our organization encourages a climate of trust and communication, working in teams, and learning from our mistakes.” They acknowledge that the final design for a dress does not always manifest in the designer’s first draft. And they go as far as to recognize that not every single final design of the eighty million articles shipped out throughout the globe will necessarily become a success. Mango executives know it is essential to acknowledge this important part of their business, because not accepting it and denying the possibility of human error can become very stifling to the creative process of fashion designers.

How can you encourage “failure” in your company to allow your employees more room to innovate?

Three Key Facts That Will Change the Way You Think About Creativity

In recent years, neuroscience research has revealed three key facts that may change forever the way we think about and approach creativity:

– Instinct plays a leading role in complex decision making.

– Eighty percent of our grey matter is dedicated to nonconscious thought.

– Imaginative play is one of the most direct means of activating our creativity and problem-solving abilities

These three discoveries open up unprecedented opportunities for progress, creativity, and efficiency, if we only embrace the instinctual and unconscious aspects of the mind and the randomness and chaos of life.

The uncomfortable part of this is that we are not used to relying on instinct and the unconscious, and we are certainly not used to accepting randomness or chaos. We are used to seeing life and reality as linear and logical when they aren’t. Success in modern times mean making a leap from seeing the world as we think it operates to seeing how it really operates. In reality both life and the whole of the human mind operate in a way that is closer to chaos than to linear order.

Excerpted from The Intuitive Compass, Jossey-Bass, 2011.

Seven Steps to a More Playful Life

Get Comfortable

Hungry, tired, and uncomfortable aren’t good conditions for serious play. Sleep well, have a healthy meal, and put on relaxed fit pants and
shirts before you set off in search of fun.

Give Yourself Time

Play is as essential to our long term well being as food, water and sleep.
Set aside a few hours, or even better a whole day or weekend to do
nothing but indulge in fun … it’s a necessary luxury that will
reap rewards in higher creativity, mental efficiency, and
productivity. You will also avoid reaching burn out.

Start Moving

Put on some music and let yourself move to it, hum along, or sing out
loud if you feel the impulse. Creativity and playfulness are rooted
not just in your mind, but also your body, and music touches both.

Be Messy

The reason that we dress kids in wash and wear clothes and sit them at
plastic tables is that play is messy! So whatever your playtime
involves – whether it be drawing, cooking, dancing, gardening, or
creative brainstorming – don’t worry about doing it perfectly and
don’t worry about the outcome. Just enjoy the mess and stay in the
present moment.

Take on a Different Role

If you play with others give up traditional hierarchy. If you are
playing with co-workers you may have the more junior members of the
team take the lead for a change.

Fail With Gusto

To paraphrase what Titanic director James Cameron once said, failure is
always an option, but fear is not. Embrace failure as part of the
process of life. Don’t get hung up on what you are doing, why you
are doing it, and where it is leading or not. Accept your fear of
failure and get on with it; if you don’t, you can’t evolve.

Open the Floodgates

In French we have a saying that translates roughly as, “Jack
laughing, Jack weeping,” meaning that when you open yourself to
one emotion you access the whole range of your emotions. But if you
keep yourself from feeling a particular emotion then you ban yourself
from the whole gamut of your emotions. So go ahead and cry at the sad
movie, laugh out loud at the absurdities of daily life, or vent your
frustration in a kickboxing class! Emotions are the fuel for
authentic living and our best source of energy and creativity.