HR Strange But True!
September 24, 2008

Time to ditch those old and constricting workplace conduct policies. Whether they are rearranging the office furniture to be more teamwork-friendly, or working on "hot button" issues, it may be more productive to let your employees play!

"Work and play are words used for the same thing under differing conditions"--Mark Twain. This quote opens the new book, The Red Rubber Ball at Work--Elevate Your Game Through the Hidden Power of Play, by Kevin Carroll, founder of Katalyst, LLC and former athletic trainer for the Philadelphia 76ers.

"Play is serious business, and play is serious in business," says Carroll, who shows how the most enjoyable and beneficial elements of childhood play can actually solve some of the biggest problems companies face and create happy, more productive workers.

Child's play is productive, even if it is fun, Carroll maintains, so he shows in the book how to manifest and apply the skills and energy employees used as kids to workplace issues such as innovation, results, teamwork, leadership, and curiosity. The book contains "play profiles" from successful businesspeople such as Seth Godin, Nike's Tinker Hatfield, futurist Andrew Zolli, and even Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

An example of a "play profile" is Godin's game of "Diplomacy." Seven employees gather around maps of the world from 1900 and vie to control the most powerful cities. There is no element of chance--no dice or spinners--only action. Participants, make deals, deploy armies, form alliances, break truces, initiate sneak attacks, invade--and conquer!

Godin feels the scenario aspect of this nonphysical game helps employees anticipate change, improvise, and plan exit strategies. And there are more such games in the book.

But if your goal is to physically change your office, you will want your employees to play in "The Sandbox," according to an article in BusinessWeek .

Based on elements from complicated board games, this colorful office planning tool from DEGW ( helps employees brainstorm in three 2-hour sessions under the guidance of a DEGW facilitator. The goal is to create the best placement of furniture and cubicles and the best floor plans in a working group to facilitate privacy and sound containment and enhance work, and foot-traffic flow to foster the highest level of teamwork and innovation from a working group. The game also allows interior designers and architects to elicit concrete ideas from the results.

Source: The Red Rubber Ball at Work and BusinessWeek

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