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Play is often looked at, as frivolous and childish but not all play is without business merit. There is strategic play. Strategic play uses the constructs of play as a tutoring tool around a specific problem. It's designed to mirror a problem solving process, but removes the consequence of failure. This parallel activity is a powerful training tool if the playful problem closely resembles the real problem. Let's engage in a little strategic play right now, with a quick exercise.
You'll need a piece of paper and a writing utensil for this exercise. So if you need to pause the movie here to retrieve those items, do so now. Ready? Great! This exercise is called Aroman, and you have three minutes. Most men's cologne is designed to do one thing, smell nice to women. Without cologne, men smell less appealing. This is not news. The problem with most men's cologne however, is it's designed for the 2% of time when women are within sniffing distance. The other 98% of the time, men would simply rather smell something else, something manlier.
That's where you come in. You have three minutes to write down as many possible cologne scents that men would rather smell on themselves. Think of the smells that men love and you'll do great. Get ready to pause the movie. Ready? Go. So, how many ideas did you generate? I bet there were a bunch. Now, imagine if you were tasked with generating a bunch of ideas for a new ad campaign at work.
Your goal is volume. Well, you've just practiced that exact same process. No consequence, all play, strategic play to be exact. Play with a purpose. In this instance, your goal was many ideas. This is known as divergent thinking, but sometimes you may be looking for a single idea, the right solution to a problem. This is called Convergent thinking. Divergent thinking is the type of thinking that is meant to result in many ideas. Whereas, convergent thinking is the type of thinking that is meant to result in a single idea.
Think back to Dunker's candle problem. This was an example of convergent thinking. There was one solution that you were seeking. The solution that led to the candle being fixed in the wall, so that when it's lit wax wouldn't drip on the floor. The first step to developing a strategic play training exercise is to recognize which type of thinking you'll need, divergent or convergent. Then develop something playful mirroring that process. The role of play in the creative process can not be understated. It provides a mechanism for overcoming much of the inaction that occurs when we're faced with a problem we're having trouble solving.
It's one way we can overcome the obstacles that will pop up as we develop positive creative growth habits. So the next time a problem is really stumping you and your team, toss aside the consequences and have fun.
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