Flying Feelings

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I wrote up an idea I have for a group exercise. However, sitting as I am alone in my living room, I have no one to test this idea. Want to give it a try? I’d love your feedback!

Flying Feelings
Instructions: Think about how you feel when you are the least charitable and the most cranky. When you are in that head space, think about what you assume other people’s priorities are, especially when they seem to conflict with yours. Write them on a piece of paper. Then make the paper into a paper airplane, and when everyone is ready, on my mark fly it into the middle of the room.

Pick up a few and read aloud. Then recycle all of them. These aren’t the attitudes we want to keep.

Instructions: Think about how you feel when you are the most charitable and generous. When you are in that head space, write down what you think the others in the group priorities are. Fly your planes all together into the middle of the room. Before we look at them, write a new page with what your own priorities are. Fly those into the middle of the room.

Mix them up and read a few. Read enough to see if the group can tell the difference between what people do care about, and what others think they care about.

Ask how this exercise feels to them. Does it feel better to have a generous attitude to others? Does it feel bad to know others think badly of them?

Brainstorm and write down general guiding principles of how people can assume the best of each other, and what to do if there is suspicion people are assuming the worst.

What do you think? Will it work? Did it work? Please let me know!!!

Serious Play and Playful Seriousness

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Sometimes I feel like I need to be serious to be taken seriously. I can do serious pretty well, but when I lose my playfulness, I also lose a certain amount of alignment. I lose perspective. I can’t keep my sense of humor intact.

I’ve always been afraid that if I led with my playfulness, my humor and fun, I wouldn’t be taken seriously. I would be dismissed as not worth the time of anyone who is part of serious business. After all, serious business is serious. It’s important. It’s very, very formal and straight-laced.

One of the wonderful things about using LEGO® bricks in my methodology is that I can be playful, and help other people be playful, while accomplishing serious goals. Thinking with one’s hands, hearing from everyone at the table, arriving at shared goals and a direction forward, is all scientific and serious and important. And it’s also a lot of fun!

When I called myself a Play Professional, I decided to lead with the fun. But serious business isn’t interested in fun for fun’s sake. That’s not work, that’s play. They’re opposites. (At least in the general understanding of things. I think the opposite of play is depression, not work. And work can be full of play.) So I’m finding ways to talk about the benefits – increased efficiency, decreased turnover, everyone on the same page, etc. But I find my serious mind taking over when I think about that, and soon I’m dull as dishwater.

I don’t have a pat answer for this. It’s a dance I’m doing -oops, too far over to serious, gotta go be silly. Oops, too silly, need to be serious for a moment. I’m always in danger of losing my playfulness in order to get serious work done with serious people. I’m afraid to let out my silliness in public – that’s not what grownups do. But I know when I stop laughing I also stop being present and aligned and able to help with my whole being.

So, for what it’s worth, I think it’s time to take a dance break. Time to practice new silly walks and doodle on my to-do list. Let’s not take life too seriously, okay? Are you with me?

Where Does Innovation Come From?

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Is necessity the mother of invention? Not always! I just watched a couple of TED talks from someone named Steven Johnson. He said some things that I think are worth repeating.

One: Innovation comes from PLAY. The people who are having the most fun are the ones coming up with the new ideas. Play is by its nature exploratory, and the people who are just trying things out are coming up with new and interesting ideas. (The computer wouldn’t have been invented without the music box!)

Innovation From Play

Two: Ideas are created in groups, over time. Ideas are networks, cobbled together from disparate parts, and need to have people come together to discuss their ideas for the ideas to grow and develop. Plus, sometimes hunches take a long time to develop. They can’t always be rushed. Don’t be afraid to tell people your ideas – they’re more likely to be strengthened than stolen!

Idea As Network

I think these two concepts are worth reinforcing: Ideas often come from play. Ideas need to be bounced around among a lot of people and/or over time before all of the necessary parts are there.

This is why LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® works so well. It sets up an exploratory system of play, with a group of people, to bounce ideas around. It lets people take ideas from their minds, their hands, and their neighbors, and build them into something new and innovative.

Want to know what the next big thing will be? Go find the people having the most fun! And go have some fun yourself. You never know where it will take you!

Grownups Need Play Too

When you search for information about play, you come up with a lot of information about the benefit of play for children. Children learn how to be adults through play, just like puppies learn how to be hunters through play. Play helps children learn, practice social interactions, and figure the world out.

One World Futbol

This video shows the power of playing with a ball. The confidence, strength, and joy that can come from physical and team play. But it’s still focused on youth.

What about adults? Do adults have all the confidence, strength, joy, community, and learning they will every need? (Ha!) Adults also need play to give them a myriad of results – friends, health, mental stimulation, practice with difficult situations, excitement, possibility, hope, and acceptance.

More and more, people are realizing the importance of play for the personal lives of adults:

A quick search on line for “importance of play for adults” includes: http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/11/15/the-importance-of-play-for-adults/, https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/199907/the-power-play, http://firstthings.org/the-importance-of-play-for-adults/, https://www.verywell.com/stress-management-the-importance-of-fun-3144588

However, play and work are still thought of as opposites. Play is good to help people be less stressed, but the work place must be serious.  There are a few exceptions:

Play at work

Playing at work

Many dot-com companies have long recognized the link between productivity and a fun work environment. Some encourage play and creativity by offering art or yoga classes, throwing regular parties, providing games such as Foosball or ping pong, or encouraging recess-like breaks during the workday for employees to play and let off steam. These companies know that more play at work results in more productivity, higher job satisfaction, greater workplace morale, and a decrease in employees skipping work and staff turnover.

If you’re fortunate enough to work for such a company, embrace the culture; if your company lacks the play ethic, you can still inject your own sense of play into breaks and lunch hours. Keep a camera or sketch pad on hand and take creative breaks where you can. Joke with coworkers during coffee breaks, relieve stress at lunch by shooting hoops, playing cards, or completing word puzzles together. It can strengthen the bond you have with your coworkers as well as improve your job performance. For people with mundane jobs, maintaining a sense of play can make a real difference to the work day by helping to relieve boredom.

Using play to boost productivity and innovation

Success at work doesn’t depend on the amount of time you work; it depends upon the quality of your work. And the quality of your work is highly dependent on your well-being.

Taking the time to replenish yourself through play is one of the best things you can do for your career. When the project you’re working on hits a serious glitch, take some time out to play and have a few laughs. Taking a pause for play does a lot more than take your mind off the problem. When you play, you engage the creative side of your brain and silence your “inner editor,” that psychological barrier that censors your thoughts and ideas. This can often help you see the problem in a new light and think up fresh, creative solutions.

Playing at work:

  1. keeps you functional when under stress
  2. refreshes your mind and body
  3. encourages teamwork
  4. increases energy and prevents burnout
  5. triggers creativity and innovation
  6. helps you see problems in new ways

Tips for managers and employers

It’s tempting to think that the best way to cope with an ever-increasing workload is to have your employees work longer and harder. However, without some recreation time, it’s more likely the work will suffer and your workers become chronically overwhelmed and burned out. Encouraging play, on the other hand, creates a more lighthearted work atmosphere that in turn encourages employees to take more creative risks.

  • Provide opportunities for social interaction among employees. Throw parties, put a basketball hoop in the parking lot, arrange a miniature golf tournament, stage an office treasure hunt.
  • Encourage creative thinking or just lighten the mood of meetings by keeping tactile puzzles on the conference room table.
  • Encourage workers to take regular breaks from their desks, and spend a few minutes engaged in a fun activity, such as a word or number game.

from:  http://www.helpguide.org/articles/emotional-health/benefits-of-play-for-adults.htm

 

Even here, however, play is something separate from work. What if play could be utilized as a part of work? Yes, I’m talking about LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®. How did you guess? LSP lets people play their way to serious results. One case study is described here:

Case Study

As you can see, play was an integral part of finding a serious solution.

So often I find I need to talk about the benefits of the work I do without mentioning play because I don’t want to scare people off. I can help your team work better together, communicate better, be more efficient, solve problems that need everyone’s brain working together – but I save my methodology til later. LSP can provide serious work results, and I don’t want it to be dismissed because toys are involved.

I find it interesting that I also end up feeling very serious when I talk about play. I just re-read my post, and I’m very earnest! I am also learning how to incorporate playfulness into serious work. How do you do it? I’d love to hear!

Smart Hands

One of the reasons LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® works is that it lets us think with our hands.

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What does that even mean? Well, when challenged to build an idea, you  might not know what to make. How can you portray courage? Or fear? Or maybe the problem is that you don’t even know what you want to say? What is the idea you want to have? If we allow our hands to start picking bricks, we can figure it out as we go.

Let me tell you a secret: I almost always believe it won’t work – just before it does work. I was trying to demonstrate for someone how this happens, so I started clicking some bricks together – and I felt I had to tell her I had no idea what I was doing, since I had no idea what I was doing! I felt a terrible panic that it wouldn’t work, she would see I’m a fake, and she wouldn’t hire me. But then, the miracle happened: I started talking about what I was building, and suddenly the meaning was clear. I was building a base for something to stand on, but the base wasn’t completely solid. There were places it could tip. It didn’t always, but there was my insecurity made visible, I was afraid I would tip over. She could watch it happen, the way random bricks suddenly became a story with meaning.

Some artists know they can trust their hands. Probably hair dressers and makeup artists too. People who doodle sometimes find meaning in their drawings. But those of us who work with computers don’t have that experience of letting something take shape between our hands, and develop meaning as it does. LEGO® bricks are a great place to try it out, since no one will get hurt in the process, and it’s sort of fun to see what happens. There’s something satisfying about clicking the bricks together, even when the meaning is slow to materialize. I encourage you to give it a try! (And tell me about it – I’d love to hear your experience!)

Fear and LEGO®

I do what I do to bring people together. I work with teams of people who don’t trust each other and don’t understand each other, to help them understand and trust. I am passionate about bringing people together because of my own early experiences with isolation and feeling like no one had my back. And all of my experiences have shown me that having a diverse population with diverse thinking will give stronger, more creative, and more cohesive decisions – even if it takes longer to get to those decisions.

Today I am very sad about the divisions in our country. I write this the day after the election. It is clear that there is a huge divide in our country, and that the people on both sides don’t trust each other. That in fact each side thinks the other side is deluded at best, and outright terrorists at worst. There is so much fear, hate, mistrust, anxiety, and outrage that there is very little room for love, compassion, hope, gratitude, or trust.

When I was volunteering as a community mediator in the early naughties (I got trained in 2001) I always had a moment when I couldn’t see how the two sides would ever come together. They were too angry. Too hurt. Too fearful. Time and again, what brought them together was acknowledgment of common ground. A chance to be heard. A chance to hear. A chance to talk about mistakes made without using that as an opportunity to punish or lose a lawsuit. Having that safe space where admitting error was not the same as admitting guilt. Safe space held by trained facilitators who could help the two sides see they were not so far apart on the things they really valued.

I think in the end the people in this country are not so far apart on the things they value. We all want to feel safe. We all want to have a job we don’t hate that will support us and our families. We all want life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We have very different ideas about how to get there – do guns make us safer, or less safe? – but in the end we want the same things. I hope that when the dust settles, when those who lost have licked their wounds and those who won have stopped gloating, we can find a way to see the places we have common ground. I will happily bring my LEGO® bricks to anyone who wants some help in bridging the gap between us – this is sacred work and we can’t let anyone keep us from it.

Visual Stories

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What does a skeleton with a pink flag on its head in a treasure chest mean to you?

The person who built this was reflecting on the gifts that making friends with her own mortality could bring her. So many other stories are possible – uncovering the skeletons in one’s closet; or climbing out of the dungeon where others have gotten stuck; or facing the death of a loved one; or a transition of some sort, an ending and a beginning. In LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® we always let the builder do the interpreting, since everyone brings their own point of view to every story. Having a visual makes the person’s story easier to understand and easier to remember.

I’ve been challenged to think about my stories recently. My stories about myself have often had me in the role of victim, but there are so many other ways to tell the story.

tower3

If this model were my story, I could be burdened with too much to carry. Or I could be a martyr holding up the world for other people to live in. Or maybe I am holding up my piece of the world just as everyone else does – a little crooked, but not more than I can handle.

In a LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® workshop, we only ask questions of the  models, not about the people telling the story. So we can ask what significance there is to the minifigure being split in half to hold up the tower. We can’t ask if the person has a split personality disorder, or if they feel powerless, or if their head is really that hard. We can listen as the person explores why s/he built it that way – sometimes they know, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes it’s significant, sometimes it’s merely structural.

Our stories can make us miserable or happy. There is road work being done outside my house while I type this, and I have a choice between being irritated at the constant noise and difficulty getting in and out of the driveway, and being grateful that the gas lines are being upgraded to something safer so the whole neighborhood won’t go up in flames in the next earthquake. I can shake my fist at the men holding signs saying STOP and SLOW for keeping me from getting where I need to go, or I can be grateful they are keeping everyone safe while there are workers in the road.

Sometimes we don’t even realize there is another story available. I appreciate the visual aspect of story telling with LEGO® bricks because it helps us see more clearly what other stories are possible in the same situation. Sometimes just being asked about something we built can help us realize there is something we want to say about it, or that our opinion has changed about it. It can help us realize how much of our situation is our story about it.

 

Life Without Play

Does this sound familiar?

In a meeting, person 1 states position 1: “I think we should focus our weight-loss product on a way for people to track calorie intake.”

Person 2 states position 2: “I think we should focus on and track burning calories.”

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You are sitting there, disagreeing with both of them. You think: “Every time I try to track what I eat or how I exercise, I gain weight. The only way I’ve ever lost weight is when I focus on doing the things that most support me and make me happy, and then I naturally eat less and move more. But I don’t want to share this because I don’t know if I’m typical, and I really don’t want to make myself vulnerable in a work situation.”

Now everyone else at the table is either agreeing with and backing 1 or 2. A few people are quiet. Your boss asks if anyone else has anything else to add. This is your chance, if you want to take it. You could say that what people really need is a way to track what makes them happy, since people don’t always know. Or you could say that focusing on weight loss gives the impression that people aren’t okay the way they are, and adds to the epidemic of anxiety and depression in our society. But boy, that would put the spotlight on you. Do you speak up? Probably not.

Almost every meeting has people not speaking up. When people don’t share what they really think, the whole group suffers. But with all of society aligned in one way, how easy is it to offer a different opinion? Even if it’s actually only the people in the meeting, not all of society. Even if it’s really only the few people who are speaking up, not everyone at the meeting. It still feels like courting death.

Now, let’s picture something else.

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There is a bin of LEGO® bricks on the table. Everyone is asked to build an aspect of what they want their new product to be. You build that you want it to make people feel good about themselves. You build that it should support the emotional needs of the people who use it. Other people build that it helps people to live healthy lives, that it keeps track of things that are hard for them to keep track of on their own, that it increases connections between people. Everyone puts their own ideas together with other people’s ideas, and in the end there is a rich discussion about what will help people connect and feel good. You have the chance to offer ideas about letting people know they are okay the way they are, and people like it. You don’t have to speak up into the stark silence, people are asking you about the models you built (not about you) and you can elaborate in a meaningful way without making yourself super vulnerable.

This is why I love LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®. It fosters these rich discussions without leaving individuals at risk, and it gains access to all the diverse thinking available in the group. What group are you part of that could use some play?

The Gremlins Of Change

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I am trying to change, and wow is it tough.

There is a part of everyone that wants things to stay the same. I know I’m not unique in this – there is comfort in knowing what to expect. Part of the process of change is being willing to be uncomfortable. And oh, how I long for that comfort sometimes! Enter the gremlins.

I want to step fully into my power. I want to live and breathe the values I bring to my clients, finding the path forward through play and creativity and community. And the gremlins in my mind say if I’m this uncomfortable, it must be wrong. I must be false.

I want to support my family on what I make in this business. I want to let my husband off the hook of having to support us and take a job he might not love. The gremlins say if I haven’t been successful yet, I never will be. I can’t be. I’m not capable, I’m not worthy of success, I’m fooling myself to think I can be more than I am.

Choice itself is difficult. Everything I choose means something I did not choose. I have so much trouble choosing I usually have all the desserts rather than picking just one, and then I feel bloated and sick. I often stay stuck. The gremlins on all sides chatter at me, making a case for every thing, settling on none.

But look at that new growth. It couldn’t be there if the limb had stayed.

The life force is strong, it wants to find a way. And I keep finding myself doing the things to move my business and my life forward. I walk every morning. I network with new people. I find places to speak about my business. I blog. And the gremlins are also strong. I overeat. I hide in the house. I don’t make the phone calls I’m supposed to make.

What I’m coming to learn is that sometimes I can’t trust my own thoughts. I need outside input to figure out which branches to prune to make room for new growth. I need someone else to identify which thoughts are gremlins and which are healthy (if uncomfortable) progress. For any change to stick, I need a tribe of people who believe in me and can see the change before it happens. People who have been through their own transformations, or who are going through them now. When all I can feel is the stasis of a tree trunk and the grief of a missing limb, they can see the new growth sprouting and the huge potential there.

Thank you to all who are part of my tribe. I couldn’t grow without you!  May your gremlins subside and your new growth thrive.

Exactly What We Need

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Do you know what you need to thrive?

Everyone is wired their own way. We get parenting advice and schooling and workplaces that are set up for people who are wired in a certain way, and we might not match that. We are not given a lot of encouragement to figure out what exactly we need to function well. Therapy is seen as a weakness, as is compassion, as is taking a nap.

I’m talking about something beyond knowing if you are an introvert or an extrovert, though that’s a good place to start. Do you get energy from being with people, or from being alone? That’s important to know. I need a balance of both – too much time alone and I feel lonely, but too much time with people and I get overstimulated. I gain energy from being with people, but only to a point and then I need quiet.

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How are you with touch? Do you love it or hate it? Do you want to hide under a weighted blanket, or do you not even want a sheet on you? Are you okay with touch that’s expected – a handshake, a hug you can see coming – but not with the unexpected contact of someone’s hand on your shoulder? My son is very reactive to unexpected touch, but also seeks out deep pressure on his body and rams himself against me. I love cuddles but don’t love being bashed into. Sometimes I get angry when he gets needy – not the best combination we could find.

What about structure? Do you thrive when you know what your plan is, or do you have great creative leaps when you have vast amounts of unstructured time? A mixture of both? How much of a plan do you need? Scheduled minute by minute, or hour by hour, or day by approximate day? I find myself floundering when I don’t know what I should do and I’m alone, but loving unstructured time with other people.

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How much love do you need? How much compassion? How much judgement can you withstand? From yourself or from others? Can you imagine other people having different parameters from yours? Where you might be able to thrive in a milieu of constantly testing ideas to make them stronger, others might need to let their ideas grow from a tender sprout to a more substantial tree before they can handle any critique.

What about joy? What about complaining? Are you happiest when you are discontented? How much joy can you take in? What is your default setting? Is this a setting that can change? Sometimes just becoming aware that I’m seeing the world with fearful or anxious eyes can help me switch to seeing the joy, support, love, and expansiveness that’s available in the world.

Can you imagine a world in which everyone has all the resources they need to thrive? Where everyone can get enough sleep, eat the right foods, have the most comfortable amount of human contact, get the most helpful amount of emotional support, for who they are and what they need?  This is what freedom is, to me. Why we include the pursuit of happiness in our constitution. Because we don’t want anyone to dictate what we should get or do or be. What they like and want won’t fit us. What we like and want won’t fit them. We are all free to figure out what we need and pursue it, and when our needs are met, to figure out our gifts and develop them. To find what brings us joy, and pursue that. To see what lights us up, and spend more of our time lit up from within. Our world needs that light.