Play On: Why Play Time Will Help Your Business

Play On: Why Play Time Will Help Your Business
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This story appears in the March 2016 issue of Start Up. Subscribe »

It seems every year, the physical and psychological advantages of uninhibited and unscripted play become more evident. Consider, for example, that playing around is the easiest way to turn strangers into trustworthy friends. This outcome works across age groups, genders, races and even species -- think about how we play with our dogs -- to bring us together. 

To adapt and grow as a species, we need to play, according to Stuart Brown, M.D., head of the National Institute for Play and a professor at Stanford University. Why? It’s the very nature of play that leads to innovation and self-discovery that can turn into a happier, more productive life -- and a totally new business idea. Even pro athletes, who are paid to play games, understand the need to break out of their training regimens for some unstructured play. Take tennis superstars Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Both are known to recharge between matches by playing pickup soccer games.

The flip side of play, Brown says, is depression and burnout. He makes the point that if you see someone who’s not much fun to be around, they’re likely play deprived. Don’t let that be you. But more than anything, understand that taking a few minutes each day to mess around, or enjoying the weekend off from your business, is vital to your success. 

Below, we’ve outlined three ways to incorporate more fun into your life. It’s not goofing off; it’s good business. 

Play, Don’t Compete

You can’t play with a purpose and call it play, according to Stuart Brown at Stanford. That means no winners, no losers and no one keeping score. Having no rational answer to the question, What’s the point? is the point.

Scare Yourself

This seems counterintuitive, but think about the connection between fun and a giant roller-coaster. That’s play. Use your anxiety as a guide that you’re on the right path to getting the most out of playtime.

Playtime Is Anytime

Play is not the sole domain of company outings or softball teams. In grade school, this was called recess, and it never had any agenda or program.


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