Play: The Secret to Fresh Ideas

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Coming up with new and innovative ideas to solve complex problems requires ideational thinking, the skill of producing original thoughts and images to solve complex challenges. Successful ideators (pros at ideational thinking) are skillful at dreaming up mounds of unique and unusual ideas, combining different ideas into a new concepts, building on existing solutions, and exploring possibilities that haven’t been identified. One of the core affective skills or emotional skills that masterful ideators possess is Playfulness. Playfulness is simply playing with ideas like one would play with Lego bricks– configuring ideas in various ways, connecting one idea to another, and seeing ideas with multiple perspectives. When we practice playfulness, we become more childlike, intentionally adopting the inquisitive, delighted, and wonder-filled attitudes of the children we serve. As adults, returning to the playful behaviors of our childhood can be difficult and awkward. Luckily we have pros in our midst. To learn how to play again, set aside time to play with your kids, grandkids or the kids in your ministries. Allow the pint-sized experts to guide you. As you are playing, fully immerse yourself in the experience setting aside judgment, rules and preconceived notions about how to play and what to do. After your play date, process your experience by journaling, making a list of what you did and how you felt, or drawing a picture that captures the moment. Consider how you might apply the playfulness you experienced the next time you face an ideational challenge. Instead of coming up with one practical answer, you might develop several outrageous ideas or pretend you have a special power that solves the problem in a nanosecond. You might break the traditional rules surrounding the problem and create new ones. Try changing your environment by creating a play space and adding a toy box filled with Lego, containers of kinetic sand, Buddha boards and other fun toys. Use the toys to set up “play stations” around the room. Set aside time during the day or brainstorming meetings to visit the stations. By having fun with a problem, you’ll generate more creative and workable solutions and enjoy doing it!

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