Learn to Fail Fast through Playfulness

In last month’s blog, Cultivating a Fail Fast Culture – as a manifestation of learning & exploration we explored what it means to take a reflective stance, to use the experience of failure to support ourselves and others we interact with, as a pivot point and a manifestation for learning and exploration. By stopping and taking a reflective stance, developing psychological safety and intentionally hitting our “pause buttons” to learn from mistakes and fail fast! Doing this creates coaching and teachable moments that help people cultivate people’s self-awareness, self-regulation and ultimately the self-mastery to deal with making changes, taking risks and in to learn from mistakes involved in innovation.  It is then possible to introduce play and improvisation, bringing playfulness into the way things get done in the organization, which is another fundamental toward developing a fail fast organisational culture, where creativity, collaboration, innovation, learning, and change can thrive and flourish.

From Workspace to Playspace

Organisations wishing to compete and survive, in our challenging, fast-moving VUCA times have the opportunity to compliment, enhance and push beyond their conventional perspectives on learning and change by:

  • Investing in expanding people’s capacity to ‘learn by doing’ which enables them to make mistakes and learn to fail fast.
  • Introducing play, playfulness, and improvisation into the way things get done in the organization, they can potentially reframe work as a ‘PlaySpace’!

Described by Pamela Meyer, in her book, “From Workplace to Playspace” “Play Space” as;
“an invitation to shift from the static organization to dynamic processes of organizing, innovating, learning and changing”.

Playspaces offer new relational and transformative approaches that make room for and create permission, safety, trust and support for the risky experiences that learning and changes involved in creating ‘fail fast’ cultures.

Play spaces emerge and embrace a whole new field of ‘on the job’ learning

Involving judgement-free, improvisational and experimental, energizing and generative exercises, activities and games that generate new forms of behaviour and modes of thought and are both;

  • Free and structured,
  • Focussed and dynamic,
  • Serious and fun.

Involving people in Play and Improvisation gives them permission to learn to fail fast by exploring and experimenting with new and novel ways of dealing with the environment, seizing opportunities and creating better solutions.

It creates a dynamic and engaging ‘on the job’ learning space for the development of new perspectives and new ways of being, thinking and doing things differently, in ways that people, groups, organizations, users, and customers will value and cherish.

Developing new perspectives, mindset shifts, and behavioural changes

Play and improvisation creates the space for new perspectives, mindset shifts and behavioural changes that;

  • Emerge new possibilities and perspectives, that result in creative ideas.
  • Explore new roles and developing new capacities.
  • Allow more flexibility, improvisation and play in the system.
  • Build shared commitment, responsibility and contribution to the desired innovation, learning and change goals.

Playfulness at work

“Playfulness”, described by Patrick Bateson, Paul Martin, in their book “Play, Playfulness Creativity and Innovation” is a broad term denoting any activity that is not “serious” or “work” where:

  • The behaviour is spontaneous and rewarding to the individual.
  • It is intrinsically motivating and its performance is a goal within itself.
  • The behaviour occurs in a protected context when the player is neither ill or stressed.
  • The behaviour is incomplete nor exaggerated relative to non-playful behaviour in adults.
  • It is performed repeatedly.

“Playfulness facilitates and accompanies ‘playful play’, a subset of broadly defined play, which is distinct from what happens in formal games, theatrical performances and so forth”.

The role of play and improvisation

Improvisation is a core dimension of play, and, according to Pamela Meyer, requires “capacity consisting of competence (the ability to respond to the unexpected and unplanned using the available resources), consciousness (a lively awareness of possibilities), and confidence (a belief in one’s own and others abilities)”.

Wikipedia defines improvisation as “creating or performing something spontaneously or making something from whatever is available. Improvisation, in the performing arts is a very spontaneous performance without specific or scripted preparation. The skills of improvisation can apply to many different faculties, across all artistic, scientific, physical, cognitive, academic, and non-academic disciplines”.

 Applied improvisation and learning

The Applied Improvisation Network states that applied improvisation promotes collaboration, confidence, and creation through creating an atmosphere of positive purpose where everyone is encouraged to contribute. Allowing individuals, groups and organizations to release their creative potential and over time, increase their confidence by replacing fear, suspicion, and anxiety with focus, with creativity and a sense of collaboration.

Applied improvisation uses the principles, tools, practices, skills, and mindsets developed in comedy, jazz, and theatre and utilizes them for non-theatrical or performance purposes, which can be applied to a range of subjects including innovation. Exercises, activities, and games are designed to encourage risk-taking, playfulness and to be in the moment.

Participants have fun whilst developing or challenging their existing mindsets and enhancing their sensory acuity and increasing their behavioral flexibility.

Maximizing play and improvisation in cultivating fail fast culture

Outlined in our diagram below, using play and improvisation activities to disrupt, awaken, challenge and co-create new agile and improvisational capacities, to learn to fail fast, new ways of being, thinking, behaving and change. To introduce, integrate and assimilate new roles, structures, artifacts, and processes across individuals, groups, the organization, and the whole system.

“Playspace is at the core of innovating, learning, and challenging the sweet spot of their convergence”.

Embodying and enacting a fail-fast culture

People become accepting and appreciative of their own, and other’s talents and perspectives, and foster the free flow of ideas, shift mindsets, break boundaries and increases the possibilities for enacting the positive changes required in a fail-fast culture.

  • It helps develop people’s tolerance to uncertainty to shift the way they think and feel about pushing the envelope, making changes and taking smart risks.
  • Unleashes people’s potential for through the development of a generative discovery skill set that sees, responds to and solves problems as well as realize opportunities.
  • Supports people to recover, renew and replenish their hearts and minds when they make mistakes and fail when playing, improvising and learning how to continually disrupt and shift their business game.

People learn from mistakes, how to be, think and act differently and experiment with, and apply new mindsets, behaviors, and skills as they move through the stages of learning, innovating and changing, with speed and grace. Using play and improvisation to become consciously competent, in adapting and co-creating the new “Fail Fast” world.

This is the third blog in our series of 3 blogs on cultivating a fail-fast culture.

At ImagineNation™ we provide innovation and leadership coaching, education and culture consulting to help businesses achieve their innovation goals. Because we have done most of the learning and actioning of new hybrid mindsets, behaviors, and skill-sets already, we can help your businesses also do this by opening people up to their innovation potential.

Find out about The Coach for Innovators Certified Program, a collaborative, intimate & deep personalized learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 8-weeks, starting October 22, 2019. It is a deep blended learning program that will give you a deep understanding of the language, principles & applications of a human-centered approach to innovation, within your unique context. Find out more.

Contact us now at janet@imaginenation.com.au to find out how we can partner with you to learn, adapt and grow your business in the digital age.