I’m A Tree!

https://i2.wp.com/static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Admin/BkFill/Default_image_group/2011/5/6/1304703313586/Bored-people-007.jpg

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? ­čśë

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.

img_6550

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…

brettsbadboss

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┬« 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?

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.

Business Goddess 600x424

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.┬á 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

https://i2.wp.com/inspirebee.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/rats-and-teddy-bears-12.jpgInspireBee

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.

Worst Boss Ever!

I did a team building workshop with St. Mary’s College staff last week, and people were able to express a lot with the models they built. These models all show the worst boss these people had. Can you tell from the pictures what made them so bad?

IMG_9671

IMG_9676

IMG_9673

Can you tell whose worst boss peered over the cubicle divider to watch her work? Can you tell who was too scatter-brained? Can you tell who wore too many hats? So much can be expressed with just a few LEGO® bricks!

I mentioned last week that a model can hold your story, so you don’t have to hold on to what you want to say in your head. This frees you up to listen to what other people are saying, and to make creative connections between ideas. Can you see from these pictures how well they hold ideas? I will never mistake that creeper boss on the top for anything other than someone peering over the wall at me. I don’t need to keep that boss’s name in my head, or remember anything else about him, that image will remind me of what I wanted to say.

Interestingly, sometimes models help people tell even richer stories. The scatterbrained boss could have just been scatterbrained, but this boss was credited with being colorful and exciting, as well as being tarred with being unpredictable and full of empty promises. Sometimes having a lot of detail in a model can give you more of a skeleton to hang your story on, so your story gets richer in the telling than you expected it to be when you built the model. This is helped by not rehearsing in our heads what we will say, but letting it come to us in the moment while we are explaining what we built.

So much creativity and fun comes out of these workshops, as well as a greater understanding of who you are working with and what they need. Everyone feels better understood and appreciated and heard. What team can you think of that could use some better communication? Who do you want to build as your worst boss? Come play!

Flow

FlowChart

You know that feeling when you lose track of time doing something that absorbs all of your attention? Mihalyi Csikszenmihalyi (pronounced, as best as I can tell, Me-high Chick-sent-me-high) calls that feeling Flow. It’s what athletes sometimes call being in the zone. It happens when your skills and abilities are matched by the challenge of what you are doing, and as your abilities increase, that challenge increases, so you are always in that optimal place. Being in the flow zone can be lots of fun, and can sometimes make you miss lunch.

Often in LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® workshops people tell me that they had no idea so much time had gone by. That always makes me happy, because they were in flow most of the workshop.

Sometimes, people can’t tell they are in the flow zone until they fall out of the flow zone. If you are feeling frustrated, insecure, or aggravated, you are probably at the orange dot on the chart above, where the challenge is greater than your skills have developed yet. In LSP workshops, I’m there to help with technical support, getting LEGO┬« bricks to fit together in the right way to create what you want to make. With my experience I can help get you back into the flow zone. If you are feeling bored, you are at the purple dot, where your abilities are greater than the challenge. I can’t help so much here. It’s up to the individual to re-engage with the subject, to build something more challenging, or to build another model, or to find some way to make it more relevant.

It’s actually a good thing to go in and out of the flow zone. Situations are more memorable when they have emotional content. If you go in and out of feeling frustrated or bored, and also in and out of feeling present and happy, the project you are working on will be easier to remember. (I will talk more about memory and using models to help with it in a later post.)

What gets you in the flow zone? I’d love to hear from you!

Movement In Learning Because Science

2011-03-05 08.52.03

A teacher friend of mine sent me an article by Eric Jensen titled Moving  With  Brain in Mind.

I’d like to quote him here:

“The explicit system works by gathering information about the world in what (semantic) and where (episodic) pathways. The implicit system, in contrast, works by organizing our responses to the world around us. This includes the wow or knee-jerk responses – such as immediate emotions, conditioned responses, trauma, and reflexive behaviors – and the more measured how responses, which are procedural, skills-based, operational, and tactile. … Both systems work together – they take in the information about our world, then organize our responses to it. … The point is simple: We are more likely to remember implicit learning. It is robust, easy to learn, cross-cultural, efficient, and effective – regardless of our age or level of intelligence.” (He references Reber, A. Implicit learning and tacit knowledge. New York: Oxford University Press. 1993)

This is important for children in school, workers at desks, and any group that needs to learn and think. LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® gets some of its power from this principal. Giving the content a three-dimensional aspect can help peopel use the implicit system. It makes the ideas presented more memorable, easier to understand, and more relevant.

LSP also takes advantage of emotional fluctuations. We go in and out of flow when we are involved in a project, and often it’s our emotions that give us clues to being out of flow. (More on flow later!) Moments with a strong emotional charge are easier to remember than ones with no emotional content. (How much easier is it to remember moments of great embarrassment or anger or exaltation, rather than boring moments of mundane life? I remember how I felt in middle school when a teacher fed my humiliation over crying, way more than how I felt while brushing my teeth yesterday.)

LSP is not just a bunch of adults playing with toys. It’s a methodical system based on scientific research that taps into all the ways to increase inclusion, creativity, memory, learning, and new ideas.