The War On Play

Playground and treesWhy is there a war being fought against play?

This is a question I’ve been asking myself for a while.

I hear it when I talk to friends about the near-constant stresses of their work. The fear of taking time off only to see the mountain of work upon their return. The endless cycle of meetings where conversation tends to focus on the tactical, on the execution, on the pressure to get shit done NOW. If I would ask, “But did you get to actually play today?” they would look at me like I had lobsters crawling out of my ears. And for good reason…we’ve pretty much separated the ideas of work and play in our current economy.

But there’s a reason why I decided to call this site Bailey WorkPlay back in 2006. Because I truly believe we can and must reconnect work and play if our organizations are going to succeed.

Yes, it’s an uphill battle and the latest employee engagement statistics don’t offer much reason for optimism. Not to be a Dougie Downer, but we’re not exactly helping our kids see the connection, either. I witness this every day when my children bring piles of homework from school. Just this past weekend, my 14 year old daughter probably had four or five hours of personal time. The other remaining hours were devoted to projects, studying, and various other work. For her, play has become a luxury she can’t afford.

It’s almost as if our educational system is saying, “Get used to it kids. We’re preparing you for the real world where work is first. Life is just that thing that fills in the odd spaces.”

Why do we believe this is okay? Why have we decided that we need far less time to play, create, and wonder? Why do we regard learning as this intensely serious undertaking instead of the playful possibility it can be? Is this a reason we see so many more instances of depression and anxiety among adults and teens today?

Maybe it’s because as much as we like to believe we value creativity, we really don’t know how to handle it…in our businesses and in our schools.

What will it take for us to make play a vital tool in creating vibrant learning organizations?

Resources:
Aeon Magazine: The Play Deficit

Slate: Inside the Box

 

Photo credit: eurodrifter

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  • http://ReturnOnNow.com/ Tommy Landry

    What a great post Chris. This is a big reason I chose to strike out on my own. I experienced the worst of all of this, even finding that taking a vacation (or time off for a funeral) was nothing but trouble when I returned. We get one life and I WON’T waste it stressing out about overblown menial problems that should be no big deal. Cheers to you on turning the corner. Best of luck with your new adventures!

    • http://www.baileyworkplay.com/ Chris Bailey

      Thanks, Tommy. I admire what you’re building through your own business. Having been through it all before myself, I know how hard you work to build something you love. Cheers to you, my friend. Here’s to a great 2014 for us both.