Three Benefits of Effective PLAY

With CREATIVE skill sets a priority for leading organisations, a common concern is how to effectively manage this process. In the need to adapt, develop atypical solutions or original ideas, how can you facilitate CREATIVE process for yourself or your team?

This is particularly relevant to the concept of PLAY; exploration without attachment to outcome.


The act of PLAY, familiar to Artists and Creatives, has crossed over to become a pedagogical term: we observe it in children, doodling with crayons or creating social games… hence PLAY has become translated within certain industries as ‘gamification’.


This PLAY - this process of discovery - is a natural, valuable element of all CREATIVE process; it allows you to explore format, toys/tools, boundaries, without constraint or a predetermined outcome.


“To push the boundaries”… “think outside the box”…

are layman's explanations of CREATIVITY and PLAY.


While many espouse the benefits of PLAY, few are able to articulate how PLAY may be facilitated or what outcome it is supposed to achieve; settling rather, that it delivers a ‘pot luck’ of ideas and hopefully our imaginations may spark something useful.


For many organisations, PLAY twists to frustration, waste, disappointment and despair since it lacks a clear outcome: it appears unproductive and frivolous… and they’re right… since it’s often managed poorly and produces aimless results.


Here’s the missing link…


Effective CREATIVE process requires an outcome you wish to achieve:

a problem to solve, performance to give or project to deliver.


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So how can you PLAY effectively?


Here’s an exercise I borrow from Robert McKee’s book ‘Story’, (the Holy Bible for screenwriters) and demonstrates how you can flex your CREATIVITY to PLAY reliably.

In storytelling conflict is king; the obstacles your Hero encounters and how they respond, both define their character and propel the story.

In order to craft interesting characters (and compelling stories) McKee advises when developing characters, you draft at least ten different responses to each obstacle.

Applied Creativity - C.S.Sellers

McKee’s insight is simple and elegant… when drafting a scene or composing anything new, we naturally draw, consciously/sub-consciously, from our immediate frame of reference first.


Your brilliant flashes of inspiration, are more often than not,

a variation of something you’ve already seen before.


By drafting multiple different reactions to the same moment, it drives a deeper consideration of the problem, motivations, conditions and the outcome you wish to achieve.

In terms of innovation and problem solving, it allows you to compose more comprehensive, detailed solutions, rather than resorting to quick, reactionary ‘hacks’.


As a secondary exercise, it vets your own ideas.


If we find our Hero has the same reaction to every moment, we discover we’ve developed a (boring) one-dimensional character.

If we find our Hero making diverse choices in response to the obstacles they face, we discover we’ve crafted interesting, complex characters that are compelling to watch.

If you only innovate by mimicking competitors, you may not be as CREATIVE as you thought.


This exercise serves an crucial tertiary function as well…


Encouraging PLAY alleviates perfectionism.


Often when given a task, we seek to immediately provide the best answer as soon as possible; this can narrow our focus and generate unnecessary pressure, ie: 'perfection paralysis'. By remaining conscious to the fact that we need multiple original solutions it alleviates the pressure to deliver the one.


I can accept that some of my ideas might be shit, but within the ten there will be a few worth keeping and I usually discover something sharp that I had not considered before.


Where standard process will always deliver standard results…

CREATIVITY and PLAY may be just as effectively and reliably facilitated, and with the right guidance, may provide exponential value. Ideas are free... quality ideas drive specific high-value solutions.


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Christopher. S. Sellers is an Expert on Creativity + Innovation


Founder + Director of Black Bulb Creative