I’m A Tree!

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When you are running a meeting, is this what you see? Yawns, people propping their heads up, glazed eyes, side conversations? What can you do to get people refocused?

Guess what? I’m going to advocate for play. Aren’t you surprised? ūüėČ

I’ve talked before about word games at meetings, but you need something more active when people are starting to nod off. Get people up and moving, as well as thinking about something different. Here are some options for games to play that get everyone up and out of their seats, and giving them a new perspective on things.

Now I See You, Now I Don’t

Get everyone on their feet, and divide the group randomly in half. Get everyone walking around the room randomly. Half the group should look others in the eye while they walk, the other half should avoid eye contact. After a while, have them switch.

When you stop, debrief their experience. How did it feel to look or not look at people? Did their posture and attitude and confidence change? Does one feel more natural than the other?  What were they thinking? I like to talk about how changing our body posture affects how we feel.

Triangulate

In this game, get everyone in the room to silently choose two other people in the room. Without talking, or indicating who they are connected with, ask them to stand equidistant from both people, so they make a triangle. There will be lots of movement, as people realize they have to shift position when their targets shift position, but eventually the group will settle. When they are still, ask one or two people to move to the far side of the room, and the whole group will have to shift and settle again.

When you debrief, in addition to asking for their take on the exercise, make sure you tell them that every group is a system, and whatever affects one part of the system affects everyone.

That’s The Way The Arrow Points

Cut out a paper arrow, or if this is spontaneous, just use your arm. Stand in front of the group, and have them face you. For the first round, ask them to both point the way you are pointing, and say the direction you are pointing. For the second round, ask them to point the way you are pointing but to say the opposite direction. For the third round, ask them to say the way you are pointing, but to point in the opposite direction.

I don’t have any specific points to make in the debrief, just that this makes people use their brains in an often uncomfortable way.

Interruption

For this, get people in a circle facing each other. For this game, one person takes a step into the center and starts talking about something. Any topic they like. When someone else hears a word they want to talk about, they step in, repeat the word, and start talking about that. The first person steps back into the circle. Then when someone else hears something they can talk about, they step into the circle, interrupt, and start talking about the new word. You may need to start the group off.

For example: Person A says “I was walking my dog on the beach the other day and he ran into the water and got soaking wet. Then he ran back to me and shook himself off…” and Person B says “Shook. I shook hands with someone at a networking event last week and I had never felt a dead fish handshake before but this person really had no grip whatsoever…” and Person C says “Grip. I’ve always wondered what the grip does for a movie production. And does the Best Boy grow up to be a Best Man? I’ve always wondered…” Try to get everyone to interrupt at least once.

This is very hard for some people, but hopefully it will help encourage even shy people to step in. You may need to encourage the more aggressive members to hold back to give the quieter people a chance to step in. Be sure to ask people for their feedback after the game to see how they felt and what was hard or easy for them.

I’m A Tree

Start off with everyone roughly in a circle with space in the middle. One person goes in and stands with their arms overhead and says “I’m a tree.” Another person goes in and holds one arm and says “I’m an apple on the tree.” A third person sits down by the first person’s feet and says “I’m Sir Isaac Newton sitting under an apple tree.” You are now in a tableau. The third person to join the tableau chooses who stays. Maybe this time it’s the apple. The other two people leave, and the person who stays says again “I’m an apple.” Now a random person from the circle comes in and poses in relation to the apple. Maybe they’re eating the apple? A worm in the apple? A lunchbox around the apple? A third person joins the tableau and announces who they are, then picks who stays and the others leave. And so on. This can go on for quite a while, and it can be very funny. In the end, try to get them back to having someone say “I’m a tree.”

Debrief asking about what was hard and what was easy, why you did that exercise, how people had to pay attention to each other, that sort of thing.

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What other energizers and games have you played? I’m always eager to learn more. Have fun with these, and let me know how they go!

You Thought Your Boss Was Bad…

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This employer is sitting at a game table in Vegas gambling his payroll money to try to increase it enough to cover payroll.

And you thought your boss was bad.

I love learning people’s stories through LEGO¬ģ bricks!

 

carriesgreatcoworker

This is the co-worker everyone wants to work with. She has a solid grounding in reality, and her shoes are high enough to keep her out of the shit. She has a good head on her shoulders, able to see where she’s going, where she came from, and what’s going on around her. Plus a great hat that keeps the shit off her head, should it fall from above. And her walking sticks keep her balanced and help her get shit done.

I love how vivid a story is when it’s based on a model! And the person who builds the model needs to tell the story, or we might interpret this person as a blockhead and a propeller-head who is nerdy and not good inter-personally. But the real story is better.

 

nicholesbadclient

This is the client from hell, but I see similar themes when people build bosses they don’t like. In this case the client put herself on a pedestal and gave herself a crown. She thinks she’s so much better than the woman there to serve her, represented as a lowly pair of eyes. It’s not so much fun to serve those who come across as arrogant and entitled.

 

edsbadgoodclient

Sometimes a client can be both best and worst at the same time. This one he knew by the shoes. This client has very expensive shoes. Which means they have a lot of money. But it also means they will be very demanding with lots of ideas. So on the plus side, a big lucrative job, and on the minus side, lots of work and lots of accommodation.

If you had to build your best or worst boss or client, what would you build?

Is that my monkey?

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When I first heard this Polish saying I thought it was brilliant! It’s so easy to get pulled into other people’s drama. It’s nice to have a reminder of what is and isn’t mine to deal with.

But what about self-drama? What things are coming from my brain that just aren’t true? “I’m not creative.” “I have no self-discipline.” “I can’t do that because of my background.” There is a lot of poo being flung around a lot of monkey minds because we mistake these messages for truth just because we think them.

We have talked about the idea of being creative or not in previous posts, and I will continue to discuss it in future posts. For the next, I’d like to quote Blake Boles from The Art of Self-Directed Learning: “Self-discipline isn’t some universal attribute that you either have or don’t. It’s a product of matching your actions to the work that’s most important in your life.” So if you can’t get started on a project, think about if you would feel worse if you never did it because a part of you would die, or if you’re doing this because of someone else’s circus needs. If it’s not your monkey, go find your circus and dedicate yourself to that.

Even bigger – we’re talking chimpanzee size, not spider monkey – is having a fixed or growth mindset. To quote Boles quoting Carol Dweck:

“People with a fixed mindset believe that their traits are just givens. They have a certain amount of brains and talent and nothing can change that….So people in this mindset worry about their traits and how adequate they are. They have something to prove to themselves and others.

People with a growth mindset, on the other hand, see their qualities as things that can be developed through their dedication and effort. Sure they’re happy if they’re brainy or talented, but that’s just the starting point. They understand that no one has ever accomplished great things – not Mozart, Darwin, or Michael Jordan – without years of passionate practice and learning.”

Can you imagine living all your life believing that you can’t get any better? Why would you even try? If your brain is telling you that no amount of effort will make a difference, you might as well watch tv instead. But what if that’s not true? What if your effort could make a huge difference? What if the monkey you have in front of you can be trained? What if, when you find the thing that lights you up, you treat all setbacks as learning opportunities and just keep working towards making it happen? You could do anything you wanted to do.

You can do anything you want to do. (Navigating the abyss of freedom to figure out what you want to do is another post for another day.) Here are some keys (again from Boles) to help keep you moving forward when your brain gives you messages that you’re stuck:

Instead of:                  Use:

  • I can’t¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† I could if I…
  • I should¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† I choose to
  • I don’t know¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† I’ll find out
  • I wish¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† I’ll make a plan
  • I hate¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† ¬†¬† I prefer
  • I have to¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† I get to

One nice thing about a list like this is that you can listen for the first column of phrases to show up in your thinking and talking. It’s like a little reminder. Oh yeah, I could say “I choose to” instead of “I should.” What is it I think I should do? Do I choose to? Why or why not? What do I think would be better?

It also gives us a chance to use divergent thinking. Maybe I can’t right now, but I could if… what? What do I need to go forward? Is it something I can do for myself? ‘I could if I read a book.’ Or do I need to get help? ‘I could if I could find a professional monkey trainer to help me.’ What if you could come up with dozens of options? Not just one way forward, but so many that you have the freedom to pick the ways that feel best and have multiple ways forward? Not just climbing the ladder of success, but as Sheryl Sandberg puts it, climbing the jungle gym of success, sometimes sideways to find another way up? Your options are only limited by your vision.

What is your monkey mind telling you? Whose circus is that message coming from? You have endless possibilities inside you. Don’t let those monkeys smear you!

Serious Business Fun

Leonie Dawson has so much fun with work! She is a hippy, new-agey, spiritual, serious business person in charge of a network of other serious business women across the globe.

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You can access it here: Business Goddess

Doesn’t that look fun? I mean, she’s playful, and still smart. She can be herself, in all her colorful glory, and still make money.

Part of play is being oneself. Everyone has their own play personality. Dr. Stuart Brown lists 8 personalities in his book Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul:

  1. The Joker (silliness, nonsense, practical jokes, telling jokes)
  2. The Kinesthete (people who move to think, athletes, dancers, etc)
  3. The Explorer (physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual exploration)
  4. The Competitor (playing to win, keeping score)
  5. The Director (planning and executing events)
  6. The Collector (gathering an interesting bunch of stuff)
  7. The Artist/Creator (joy in making things)
  8. The Storyteller (imagination and performance)

Clearly Leonie Dawson is at least partly an artist, also probably a director, and possibly an explorer and storyteller too. I am part creator, part storyteller, part kinesthete, part explorer. I don’t like competition. What are you?

I’ve been enjoying Leonie’s playful personal expression since I first discovered her workbook a couple years ago. I’ve been using her workbook since – it’s a great planning tool and a source of inspiration.

Full disclosure: I recently became an affiliate for Leonie, so now any time anyone buys her stuff through me (like from this link for her biz academy) I get a cut of the profits. I wouldn’t have done that if I didn’t think she is an awesome example of being herself while being in business – and I find her approach quirky and fun and accessible.¬† I hope you do too, not because I get some cash, but because I want everyone to find their way to be playful and fun and serious and professional. All at the same time.

Cost of No Play

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Fifty years ago a man named Charles Whitman killed more than 30 people before being killed himself. The reason he snapped? No play. No play in his childhood, no chance to try  out different responses, or let his aggression out through play.

Rats that smell a cat run and hide. This is self-protective, and appropriate. But the rats that aren’t allowed to play when they are young never come back out again, and starve to death. They never learned to manage risk through play.

Children who get more recess do better in school. Body play helps stimulate the cerebellum and create more neural connections. Object play helps strengthen the frontal lobe, where executive function lives, and increases metaphorical thinking. Playing in one’s preferred way increases the intrinsic motivation to keep going, and develops a person’s engagement and persistence in the face of adversity.

I had the great good fortune to hear Dr. Stuart Brown speak yesterday at the First Annual Bay Area Play Symposium. He has been studying play extensively for many years, and has proven the scientific backing to support more play. He is now in his 80’s and looks a couple decades younger. He wrote the book Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, and is the founder of the National Institute for Play.

 Play helps people develop trust, belonging, safety, and rapport. When there is time to play, people are more effective and efficient at their jobs, and work together better because of the bonds they built during play.
What are you doing to bring play into your life today? Into your community? Your workplace? Your home? Scientific fact: we all need more play.

Why creativity takes courage

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We as a social species like to belong to the group. There is safety in belonging. There is security in knowing who is in my clique and who is out. We tend to dress like the people with whom we feel we belong. We tend to agree with what they say, since disagreeing means risking being thrown out of the group. Even the idea of being thrown out can give us a visceral fear, like a punch in the gut, real terror we might not survive.

There is a deep satisfaction and comfort in mirroring other people and being mirrored. Being too much out of phase with the people around us makes us deeply uncomfortable. We often don’t know why we’re uncomfortable, which gives our fertile imaginations a chance to make stuff up. What we make up is usually dire – we will lose our jobs, that person must be a terrorist, we will lose our homes, we will die.

So we hire people who are like us, and we are comfortable on a team with people who are like us, and we all prefer to think in a similar enough way that we can be familiar with each other. And then – we need a creative idea.

How much courage does it take to voluntarily stand up and give an idea that’s never been done before? How much more courage to offer a brand new sprout of an idea, one that hasn’t grown yet and is vulnerable to squishing? Even people who practice creativity in their daily lives might hesitate before risking humiliation, exile, and death.

This is why we need facilitators who bring in toys. We need our normal to be shaken up to allow for new to grow. We need a chance to see that our MSU (Making Stuff Up) is incorrect and no one wants us to die or even feel embarrassed. We need a chance to play around and see what happens without being judged or feeling like we are being judged. This is why we need play.

Are You Creative Or Not? (Hint – yes you are!)

“Many people believe only two kinds of people exist in this world – those who are creative and those who are not. … They believe creative people simply walk around and are suddenly struck by creative ideas much like a bright flash of light.” – Dave Burgess, Teach Like A Pirate

Do you think that’s true? Do you think that if you don’t have random fantastic ideas fly into your head you aren’t creative? Balderdash! (I’ve always wanted to use that word.) Poppycock! (And that one.) Creativity is a process, not a set of DNA that you have or don’t have.

What is the creative process? I’m so glad you asked! Dave Burgess says it well: “It is the process of consistently asking the right questions…and then actively seek(ing) the answers.”

What are the right type of questions? Open-ended questions that make your brain stretch. Want to make your meeting more fun? You could ask yourself, “What is the best place to hold this meeting?” (It may or may not be in a meeting room.) “How many ways can I think of to get us outside and/or moving around?” “What would keep people involved and engaged?”

My husband, when I told him about this, said that when he comes up with creative ideas, it’s usually because he’s trying to cram together two unrelated ideas.

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These shirt designs were for a Betabrand contest. He thought about typical shirt designs, like plaid, and stripes, and then asked himself what he could put into those designs that would make them funny, or different? Thus – bacon plaid, asparagus stripes, and tangled cord plaid! (If you’d like to vote for them, and maybe get them made into shirts, please visit https://www.betabrand.com/u/michael-d-199) (If you’d like to see more of his art, please visit http://www.facebook.com/michaeldashowart or http://www.michaeldashow.com)

My point here is that creativity comes from engaging with an idea and asking yourself questions – and then giving yourself time to come up with answers. Some answers will come right away, and some take longer to percolate. Those bright flashes of light will only show up if you are actively searching for them. And everyone is capable of searching for them! Start asking yourself questions, and get your brain ready to grab those answers! The more you practice, the easier it will get.

I will end with a few questions you can ask – please add more!

*What can I make with these three ingredients?

*How can I turn this project into a contest?

*What would be a good mnemonic to help people remember this information?