The importance of being playful

There are dangerous consequences of labelling play as unprofessional, say professors Mark Dodgson and David Gann.

by Mark Dodgson and David Gann

As children, we all learn through play. It is the way we test and stretch our abilities, it teaches us to cooperate with others, and it is how we learn about competition and rules. Being able to play is also a crucial element of professional work.

We once learned of a senior engineer in IBM who insisted on turning up to meetings as a rabbit. Many might question her professionalism. While it might be diverting to liven up your meetings by attending as a greyhound or a bee (or whatever best represents your objectives), it could get out of hand (too many snails?).

The fact is the engineer was being entirely professional. Her meetings were held in a virtual world, and were part of a major initiative in IBM to understand the nature and potential of new technology.

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