For many, mundane workplace practices that were once taken for granted: Commutes, watercooler chitchat, coffee breaks, small talk with the boss. Now, these formerly commonplace activities stir up feelings of nostalgia and a longing for the way things were.
With so much uncertainty in the world, now may seem like an inopportune time to talk about workplace creativity. Creativity may feel superfluous, but it can actually help us stay sharp and adapt to our ever-changing world. Learning through play helps us to embrace uncertainty around change, provide support in our approaches to creativity, and ultimately, enhance our workplace collaborations and the innovative potential that creative leaders can cultivate.
While many of us have already graduated from the traditional classroom and are climbing the professional ladder, our ability to learn never ends. Adults, like children, need to remain engaged in learning and creativity to thrive in life. Research tells us that learning through play is vital to a child’s well-being and ability to thrive in life because it helps them develop a breadth of core life skills: Creative, Social, Physical, Emotional, and Cognitive. These core skills also lead to success as adults.
Akey ingredient to performing executive functions as an adult is bringing out your creativity. Many professionals will answer that their “biggest strength” is their focus and drive. While some believe that these traits are intrinsic and ingrained, others argue that our ability to maintain focus, manage our time and meet deadlines can actually come from creativity. Studies confirm that pretend-play interactions can help children enhance these executive functions, while adults who perform above average on creativity also perform significantly better on executive function.
Further, research demonstrates intrinsic motivation and creativity are closely linked. The more we are self-motivated to contribute our best ideas, explore new perspectives, and consider creative thinking strategies, the more likely we are to consistently come up with ideas and solutions that are unique and innovative. Not surprisingly, there is evidence to suggest that being creative for its own sake (or when we are intrinsically motivated) is more sustainably productive than when done for extrinsic rewards.
Just as we cannot overlook the impact of learning through play and creativity during our early years, we must also engage in play and creativity in our adult years, as professionals, in order to continue cultivating our abilities to learn and adapt. After all, skills like confidence, communication, and critical thinking are necessary to stay motivated and innovative in the workplace.
How can we tangibly promote creativity and play in the workplace, particularly when today’s office is most likely your living room, kitchen table, or even bedroom? For starters, creativity cannot exist without uncertainty. It requires us to let go of inevitability and open ourselves up to the possibility of messiness and discomfort, but also to the prospect of something new and exciting.