Sunday, May 1, 2011

Putting Serious Play Into Action

Originally Posted on November 12, 2009

Whenever you come to a person’s desk, there’s always some form of curious items out there for view. We’re not just talking about pictures of family and other fun things around the desk. There are maybe some toys and items of interest that reflect the person behind the desk. The rule of thumb is to never invade a person’s desk unless you have permission. Sadly, even the most creative people have this rule.

One of the things I’ve learned through the Creative Leadership Development course is the concept of Serious Play. As interpreted, it engages others through utilizing play to connect leaders with others on their team. In my case, it would more of an individual artist making a connection with another person, or, rather, a creative leader of some form or another.

In the past, I would be protective of another touching something special of mine. This class opened the lid off that notion.

On our final class meeting, we had to do a final presentation on how to demonstrate employment of the creative competencies as stated in the textbook. I wanted to test out Serious Play by bringing everything I would put around my desk when I am employed at an organization or where I do my individual work. This included a baseball in a case, a car brochure (specifically, a Bentley Continental GT), a couple of ball caps, my Boston Red Sox jersey, my North Country Bears t-shirt (which I took away before I started the next step of the presentation), a copy of The Boy From Reseda – and Boomer (my conga drum).

In my final presentation, I invited my classmates to go through my stuff and play – to deconstruct and reconstruct what they see. I walked away from the items and let my classmates have at it. It was amazing to see what they’ve done with the items I presented. Some read my book out loud – which surprised me. In the end, they piled everything on Boomer and left it alone. That was a curious result. Even more curious was that only one person touched the drum’s head. I wondered whether people were afraid of Boomer’s energy or that Boomer wasn’t buying into letting anyone touch him.

The presentation and exercise taught me that I could open up my items to anyone without fear of improper molestation. Yet, there are some rules that could be made in Serious Play regarding my items. Granted, you can’t throw a baseball across the room without breaking something. Nor can you rip through pages of books (or write inside a book itself) because someone wanted to capture something significant inside of it.

The biggest hurdle would be in dealing with Boomer. When I began to learn the conga drum, I was also taught that another person couldn’t play another’s drum unless he not only has permission, but also can be trusted with the drum itself. I had drums played on incorrectly that amounted to a sonic disturbance. I also had them dropped or mishandled.

How do I deal with this? Probably let Boomer out within an arm’s distance of me and have the other person (or, rather other people) ask permission first before letting them have the drum.

It seems that a spark was generated in this exercise in experiential learning. I certainly learned a lot not about myself, but the kind of leader I could be in this new realm. Still, questions remain whether I could be employed in a place that fosters creative freedom or become a soloist in a world that may not be economically strong enough to support those looking to do so. Or, rather, go back into the mundane world of Corporate America.

For me, it is a matter of making poetry out of complex situations - such as life and the things that make up my creative DNA. Sharing these gifts will help forge a path towards the new life.

In other words - now, I get this!

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