Approaching tasks with a playful mindset can increase productivity and bring new perspectives to the workplace, according to Blommer Chocolate Co.’s Melissa Tisoncik.
Washington — It was the end of a long week and the team had pushed hard to cross the finish line to successfully meet a deadline. We had already started prepping for the next challenge and a Microsoft Teams message popped up from my colleague: “You know, having access to GIFs and memes significantly increased my morale and productivity.” I chuckled and thought about all the images buzzing around the virtual project channel.
What was it about that comment that resonated with me though? The project was tough, and GIFs had been woven into our project platforms as another form of dialogue. They were simple joys, picture communications to emphasize emotions or encourage resilience. It was a form of constructive playfulness being explicitly called out by my colleague. The use of them added levity. Can serious business be done better when there is lightness added to a situation?
Work can be tense and situations strenuous at times, which raises the stakes when problem solving. But while the problems are challenging, the process to finding solutions doesn’t have to be heavy. What if we tapped into our playful creative minds a little more at different times?
Now, this mindset can be misunderstood — being playful is not about dismissing the significance of the situation or minimizing the severity of the problem, nor is it behaving inappropriately or acting with sheer frivolity. The traditional image of a professional is serious, hardworking and focused. Being playful doesn’t take away from those qualities; it can complement them and when harnessed correctly, it can strategically result in increased productivity and deliver a new perspective.
A playful mindset is about integrating enthusiasm, passion, fun, proactive initiative and energy into the day-to-day. Organizational psychologist Adam Grant states: “Having fun isn’t an enemy of efficiency. It’s fuel for finding flow . . . Play is not a frivolous activity. It’s a path to connection and creativity.” When you are in this mindset, you open opportunity to churn energy and develop fresh and enthusiastic ideas.
Playfulness evokes divergent thinking by opening the flow of idea exchange and allowing collaborators the freedom to switch from one perspective to another. This mindset provides great observational skills and can lead to seeing things differently. Playfulness can be a gateway to creative space and invention. It is not meant to be used in every situation, but understanding how to use it strategically is the first step.
This mindset is a balance between creativity and discipline. Playfulness is not only about idea generating, as that just leaves you with a pile of concepts. It is also about having discipline, backed by passion, to equally do the hard work and ensure ideas come to life.
We all have deadlines and targets, but how we approach the task is what makes the difference. Co-creating with others enthusiastically can be very powerful and can help move obstacles to achieve your deadlines. This type of collaborative exchange can amplify connections, boost well-being and help relieve tension. Yes, I work in R&D and this mindset is both abundant and necessary in this field, but what if you took some of this philosophy to other areas of the business?
If we dismiss and stifle this type of mindset, we risk thinking differently or perpetuating positive engagement. It is important to promote this mindset as teams need motivation and grounding in the present moment to power through chaos and tough days. A little goes a long way, too. Adding levity can make monotonous activities more interesting. We work in a candy industry full of whimsy and joyful moments. Let’s push that creative energy into the mundane tasks. Are there small amounts of levity you can use to boost vitality and self-motivation in projects?
Try using playfulness to transform the way you show up as an active collaborator. Be open to the small lighthearted picture responses as part of a team language. Try closing your meetings with some humor after a long report out. Provide space and permission for the team to enthusiastically debate a concept, even if it disrupts your meeting agenda. Recognize when the team needs a break and do something mindless and fun to re-energize.
Challenge yourself by breaking out of old routines and weaving in spontaneity. Have the group congratulate a colleague by only posting meme responses on a virtual chat forum. Bring in all kinds of ideation techniques to promote an inquisitive attitude on your next huddle. Develop milestone targets for long projects and pause to celebrate the moments. Add some color and qualitative accomplishment into your monthly metrics. Put on a playful lens when solving a hard problem. Be open-minded, don’t over think it and keep it light.
About NCA Women’s Leadership Group: NCA Women’s Leadership Group is a forum for women in the confectionery industry to connect and share their experiences and provide opportunities to network and grow in their careers. For more information and to get involved visit CandyUSA.com.