Can You Come Out to Play?  WILL You?

By Shlomo  Maital


   I’m married to a very smart psychologist, who is an expert on children and play; as a result, I get to read many interesting, sometimes wonderful, articles.   The latest is one published in 2007, by L.A. Barnett, titled “The nature of playfulness in young adults”.  The purpose of the article was to see if the term “playfulness” could become a valid “construct”, i.e. a clear, well-defined concept recognizable by all and useful for further research.  To this end, the author used focus groups of adults.

     The result:  A rather long, but insightful, definition of “playfulness” in adults.

      Here it is.  Read it.  See if you have these qualities.  Why?  Because, as the author notes, “playful people are uniquely able to transform virtually any environment to make it more stimulating, enjoyable and entertaining.”    Want an extreme example:  Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful, a film about a father who made life in a Nazi concentration camp into a game, for his young son (Academy Award, Best Actor 1999). 

 Playfulness is the predisposition to frame (or reframe) a situation in such a way as to provide oneself (and possibly others) with amusement, humor and/or entertainment.  Individuals who have such a heightened predisposition are typically funny, humorous, spontaneous, unpredictable, impulsive, active, energetic, adventurous, sociable, outgoing, cheerful, and happy, and are likely to manifest playful behavior by joking, teasing, clowning, and acting silly.

   Do any of those adjectives describe you?  Yes?  No?  If no – do you want them to?  If so, you can definitely change.   Just remember how you played when you were a child, and copy yourself as you once were.  

   What does this have to do with innovation?   “Reframing” (seeing the same thing differently from others) is a key part of playfulness, and a key aspect of creativity.  If you can ‘reframe’ to play, you can reframe to create.   

  • L.A. Barnett. The Nature of Playfulness in Young Adults.   Personality and Individual Differences, 43 (2007), pp. 949-958.