There is something magical about making things with your hands – how an object sounds like hitting against another, how placing different materials together with different textures can make an inspiring pair, and how the end product is a visual manifestation of your creativity and individuality.

I would say that many of us have forgotten how that feels like, and have lost a sense of the power of play.

Many inspiring writers such as John Maeda (President of RISD), Bruce Nussbaum (author of Creative Intelligence), and even Seth Godin (no intro needed…) write about the importance of ‘thinking like an artist’ to become an effective leader. Along the same track, I think one of the best advice I have received so far, though so simple that one can easily brush aside, is ‘don’t forget to play’.

Using OK Go‘s Needing/Getting video as an example (watch it if you haven’t), the band speaks to the importance of playing to create innovative material. OK Go has always created extraordinary videos with amazing sets and ideas, and coupling their Needing/Getting video on youtube is a much-less viewed behind-the-scenes video titled “The Process of Play”:

The idea of play can be brushed aside as wasting time because it has no clear objective, goal or deadline. Though it is necessary to set boundaries and an environment to allow the creative processes to flow (building what’s known as an ‘eco-system’ is more and more used), a stagnant and deeply-structured process kills creativity simply because it is ‘the box’ that boxes out your wonder and curiosity.

I understand the term play as allowing yourself to explore; exploring with your senses and allowing yourself to fully experience everything that may rise up during the process. This process grants us a different viewpoint to all that surrounds us: how meshing things and people together can create an enlightening conversation or idea and more importantly, how it feels deeply human.

x social innovation

If we are to dive into the conversation of how we can be more innovative, which is a very commonly-asked question, I suggest a little more ‘play-time’ and ‘play-dates’ would be beneficial. Just like when we were kids – how we were once wide-eyed, curious, completely open, and at a loss of the sense of fear. Ironically, those are the very components that build that eco-system for social innovation. We just need to figure out how to get back into that headspace.

Don't Forget to Play


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