Nothing puts you more in the present than being on a playground filled with kindergartners and first graders. I helped out my partner Greg with yard duty just a few days after the Newtown tragedy, and I couldn’t help but be moved by the sight of these children, who were the same age as those who died. I got to experience them both for their innate wisdom, and as little bundles of potential. What a rush! Since then, I have volunteered for yard duty as often as possible.
Recollections of recess might bring you joy or terror. I can report that not much has changed on the playground where you can likely find some version of yourself. I also see that the dynamics of the playground mirror those in the workplace. So what lessons can the playground offer adults?
As principal, Greg tells students to play safe; respect the game and have fun. Recess does not include tests or performance outcomes, and kids can control how they play. It’s a perfect setting for uncovering possibilities. In one infectious game of hula hoop choo choo, a group of five first graders took two hula hoops and formed a train. As they made their way through the playground, other kids grabbed a hula hoop and joined in. Within minutes, the train was fifteen hula hoops long.
On a quieter end of the playground, Audrey and Jayden, an unlikely pair according to Greg, invented a new spin on hopscotch by playing ro-sham-bo to move forward. Sebastian asked me to teach him how to throw a frisbee, and Isabella came up to me in tears, saying “I have a lot of good ideas, but the boys won’t listen to me,” (Join the club Isabella). We talked over some things she could do, and, toward the end of recess, she told me that she had worked it out with the boys. So, what did I learn?
If you want build your team’s creative and problem-solving skills, institute a mandatory recess. What kind of a stretch would a work-place recess (aka “a break”) constitute for you in your workplace? We sit in front of computer screens, nod out in long meetings, and breathe stale air for hours. Having a school day without recess would be unthinkable. What if our workdays without recess were unthinkable? Are we talking revolutionary?
Short of installing hoops and backboards, here are some ways you can bring recess into your organization:
- Institute 10-minute “Strategy and Innovation” sessions into your staff meetings. Bring a current workplace challenge to the staff and ask them to devise creative ways to solve it. No obligations. No judgments.
- Open staff meetings with a game. I often use children’s jigsaw puzzles. They are easy to do, encourage collaboration, and often put people in a good mood.
- Hire Playworks for your next retreat or training. They work in both school and workplaces to promote the Power of Play.
- Find a local school and invite your team to volunteer through yard duty or classroom assistance.
Start today by taking a 15-minute break. Make yourself a cup of tea or coffee and don’t think or talk about work. You will find, like those kids who ran out those cobwebs during recess, that you will be ready to get back to work with a refreshed outlook and a smile.
Copyright © 2013 by Elemental Partners, LLC. | Reprinted with permission
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