Posts Tagged innovation-strategy

Why adults should just press pause and play

The word ‘play’ has an interesting connotation these days. While it generally means to take part in something, we more often associate it with children and fun or a time where we are less serious. When we are young, play is seen as necessary for development, growth, socializing and for fostering creativity, yet the idea of play past the point of puberty suddenly becomes a negative or a dirty word, particularly in the workplace.

 

But what if being a little more jovial, light-hearted and maybe even more open minded could mean greater insight, better ideas and even increased productivity?

 

As someone who works directly with people to inspire and spark innovation, the basic concept and benefits of play as an adult is not new to me. In order to get people from different disciplines, backgrounds and organizational cultures to relax into a mindset where they can freely explore their more creative side, you have to engage what is formally known as adult play.

 

But this is just thinking about play in a classical context and relating it to energy release or meeting basic human needs for enjoyment. Play may provide the key to unlock much more. From what I have observed and from further studies in the field, play can lead to a much deeper cognitive development. If we allow for further development and interaction with play as adults, we may just be able to tackle some of the challenges facing modern society.

 

What is play?

 

While I don’t consciously use the term ‘adult play’ when working with people, what we aim to do is to enable adults to lighten up, let go and embrace their inner child without fear of judgment. The practice of play is a vital source of stimulation and relaxation for any person, both mentally and physically.

 

But let’s not get confused about what adult play actually is. It is not sliding down a slippery dip, it is not rolling around with your kids, it is not going to the movies. Adult play needs to be for you, as an adult; an activity that lets you engage the creative side of your brain without censoring yourself. It is a very focused experience that can be done solo or in a group yet ultimately lets you walk away having learned something.

 

Although not a new concept, adult play as a practice is still very formal for adults. We often see it in the form of creative sessions, when you are cooking, painting, doing craft or participating in a class of some kind. While these practices are a good start, they are often performed in secret or private when you are officially taking time out. To really see the benefits, play needs to be accepted into everyday life. Adults need to start ‘living play’.

 

Play is a popular concept among tech companies; think Google. These companies have made the connection between productivity and a fun work environment. Encouraging play at work results in more productivity, higher job satisfaction, greater workplace morale, better teamwork and problem solving.

 

I personally always try to put an element of play into every project I do and every workshop or session I do with clients, be it ideation, insight or innovation. Without this sense of liberation people can struggle to relax, open up or get into the required mindset. When we do tap into this mindset, people can truly be open and feel brave enough to take the strategic leaps that need to happen in order to make a difference to a business.

 

What are the benefits of play?

 

Never before have we lived in such supercharged environments where so much of our attention, time and energy is demanded from all areas of our lives; be it work, family, friends, health, culture or politics. Sometimes our body requires us to just press pause and play.

 

Playing as an adult

From my perspective, the positives of adult play can have vast benefits. On a cognitive level play is known to improve brain function, balance emotion and boost our ability to learn as well as relieving stress and anxiety. I often wonder how many people in business are dealing with this every day, and just brush it aside and consider it normal. If we can find a way to harness play to provide relief from stress and anxiety it will benefit not just businesses, but the community and economy at large.

 

Economically, a surge of creative thinking drives innovation, strategic thinking, and problem-solving, which will result in economic growth and potentially the development of a smarter, more valuable workforce. Socially people will engage more and develop as individuals in a social context, giving the net result of a more socially balanced and connected community.

 

Up until now, I believe play has historically been kept for the more creative types, insinuating that only a certain group of people can tap into this type of innovation or insight. Naturally, I know that not to be true, creativity is not just a talent, it can be taught. As adult play more steadily enters the corporate world through innovation consultants like myself, I believe practice will become far more mainstream. Not only will we benefit from it in our personal lives, as let’s be honest, playing is fun, but we will also see a positive shift in our families, our communities and ultimately the world around us.

 

By Anne Lacey

Founding Partner, antedote

When did you last innovate your innovation approach?

Creativity Innovation

The old adage, ‘Standing still is the fastest way of going backwards’, feels more true than ever: whether it’s daily Facebook visits passing the 1 billion mark, 24/7 news across your devices, Google’s driverless cars or the Internet of Things… the world we live in is changing rapidly and often unpredictably.  In line with this, marketing challenges are becoming more complex too: brands need to play by different rules to be successful and it’s tougher than ever for new products to launch and still be around a year or two later.

It’s more than just a little strange then that our industry doesn’t seem to be keeping up with the times… and particularly strange that this is true of our approaches to innovation, where surely we have a real permission (and a need) to innovate?  In reality though it seems to be the same formula for innovation: an inputs to workshop to concepts model that is often linear, often slow and often dependent on a select audience of consumers where there’s a risk of killing ideas either too early or too late in the process.

So how innovative is your approach to innovation?

Here are 5 key questions to ask yourself.

  1. Are you ‘thinking big’ when it comes to all the possible data sources that are open to you?

    Whatever category you’re in, there is an increasing volume of data that exists in the ether, just waiting there to be tapped, mined and distilled into useful perspectives and ideas on where to go hunting.

    Social listening can be a valuable start-point to enrich your foundation of learning. While you need to ensure you’re targeting the right conversations in the right places – otherwise forget trying to get a meaningful ‘signal’ – listening in on what people are talking about in relation to your category or its adjacencies can build a powerful and often unexpected picture.

    As a case in point, we extracted over 200,000 online reviews about health and wellness products and used our Review Mapping tool to identify 12 connected opportunity platforms to investigate further: a number of them were in overlooked areas felt to be already well catered to. Since then a number of ideas have been developed and tested, with a large majority being judged as ‘outstanding’ in BASES testing.

  2. Are you getting the true picture?

    Getting to consumers’ less rationalised ‘System 1’ responses has been an ambition of the industry for some time now. While traditional focus groups can be guilty of lapsing into traditional question and answer patterns that are more ‘System 2’ in nature, learning can be deepened with creative techniques, such as metaphor elicitation, or projective and enabling techniques specifically designed to get to deeper motivations and undeclared needs. If you have the freedom to go digital, then mobile ethnographies give you the license to be truly with consumers in the moment, and in this respect are a fantastic tool to get real world perspectives and often more of an unfiltered perspective on what’s important.

    At Antedote we’ve also being embracing the opportunity to use wearables and sensory tech to help explore the actual picture: our ‘Quantified Self’ approach incorporates data yielded from apps and biometric devices to explore new perspectives. Often the gap between what consumers think they do and what they do are what’s most illuminating and a great start point for innovation.

  3. Are you able to get rapid feedback from consumers along the journey?

    Waiting for weeks or even several months for consumer feedback can slow down the innovation journey to a juddering standstill – it’s not just about clients rarely having the luxury of time in today’s marketing landscape, it’s also that those key stakeholders start to get distracted by other initiatives and momentum is simply lost.

    Today we have more tools open to us that enable us to explore ideas in short, sharp, rapid ‘bursts’; ensuring we’re building on them quickly and iteratively. Our recently launched Idea Accelerator tool is already proving a real value-add: in some markets we can begin to get real time feedback on early innovation ideas in as little as 60 minutes after that Ideation Workshop wraps up. We use it to both prioritize ideas and get an early read on how they can be optimized – and being a digital tool you can even get reaction to packaging concepts and other visual support.

  4. Is your idea ‘digi-ready’?

    In today’s digital world it’s only natural that innovation briefs have a digital component, or of course can be the sole focus of your innovation. A visual mock-up of a website or app goes some way in bringing to life how an idea will look and feel, but interaction is often more telling. Digital prototyping is increasingly featuring at some point along the innovation journey. Antedote’s approach to digital prototyping allows you to build in user journeys and uncover learnings for optimization built around user experience.

  5. Are your deliverables harnessing the potential of the digital space?

PowerPoint continues to survive as the main vehicle for a debrief… but often falls short when it comes to selling ideas onwards and upwards within the organization. For innovation in particular we’ve heard instances of ideas needing to be pitched via other means, or clients running the risk of being shown the door. It goes without saying that the digital world offers many means to bring to life desired ideas and experiences in powerful ways: interactive websites, apps, consumer journey films and prototyping are just examples of more powerful ways to get the message across.

So how do these 5 questions leave you feeling about your approach to innovation?

If a little bit nervous, then we believe that’s a good thing: it’s an exciting but uncertain time to be in the world of marketing and this means our innovation approaches need to involve putting one foot forward into the unknown, experimenting and doing things differently… so a little apprehension is a sign of being inventive and moving forward.

So let’s not default to the known and the familiar.  Let’s be bold and be brave. Let’s discover the new.

Image Credit: cc Parker Miles Blohm