Road to Peak Performance Is Paved with Play

How much fun are you having at work? Seriously. Amid so many natural disasters, global civil unrest, and our own business and economic recovery to deal with, it may seem out of place to look for ways to enjoy work.

But it’s essential to peak performance and motivation. Without tapping into play and imagination, we won’t light up our brains to full potential.

Play isn’t just something you do on break. Any activity which involves the imagination lights up our brains and produces creative thoughts and ideas. It boosts morale, reduces fatigue, and brings joy to our work days.

So how do you encourage fun in ways that are beneficial to everyone? Here are a few tips managers can use to stimulate imaginative thinking:

  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Encourage everyone to produce three new ideas each month
  • Allow for irreverence or goofiness (without disrespect) and model these yourself
  • Brainstorm
  • Reward new ideas and innovations
  • Encourage people to question everything

Play is any activity of the mind that allows you to dream up novel approaches and fresh plans.

The opposite of play is doing exactly what you are told to do. It leads to robotic behaviors, mindless performance of minimum requirements, and contributes to the disengagement of bright minds.

According to Dr. Ned Hallowell, author of Shine, imaginative thinking is not restricted to the “creatives” in an organization.

The best organizations create a culture that fosters fun in everyone, especially those to whom it does not come naturally, because those people will discover talents and ideas they didn’t know they had.

Martin Seligman, psychologist who founded the positive psychology movement, states that “Positive mood produces broader attention… more creative thinking… and more holistic thinking, in contrast to negative mood which produces narrower attention… more critical thinking, and more analytic thinking.”

There’s no doubt that most organizations are rife with analytical thinkers, many very bright. Just how much encouragement is given to creative thinking, I’m not convinced there’s much.

We’re not encouraged to find ways to play at work, to enjoy our jobs. We may be missing a key element that drives peak performance.

What do you think?

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