The Importance of Play in Business

originally posted on Concept Hub

The past month I have been posting about the many offerings Google has developed. One of the most important “secrets” to Google’s success, as well as to any innovative company’s success is to create an environment of play.

The purpose of playing is discovery and to ignite the imagination. When we play we are able to envision many different possibilities.

However, in a world where we dress up in a suit and work 8-12 hours a day to meet deadlines, or lately only strive to keep our jobs, play sometimes may seem a childish waste of time…sort of like how many people see or have seen social media.

However, more and more people are recognizing that social media is becoming more and more vital to their business success. And being successful with social media requires the ability and willingness to play.

I remember when I first heard of Twitter. It was early 2007 and even my friends who are always the first to jump on the latest technology were looking at Twitter with a puzzled look. But we all joined and we played. We did not create our “Twitter Strategy” nor did we question what Twitter’s revenue model would be. We just played.

More recently there are a lot of people playing on Foursquare and various other location-based games where they try to earn various badges and earn the right to be mayor.

What happens when a lot of people join together to play? They each come up with interesting strategies that they share with their community. They discover ways to integrate new tools into their business to make their business more fun to engage with. The team that originally developed tools such as Twitter and Foursquare observe how the community is interacting with their tools and they develop more functionality to support those efforts. Revenue models are developed that are beneficial to all the contributors to the community.

I believe that new innovations will continue to be introduced to the world this way and that the companies that are willing to play early and often will reap the most the benefit whereas those who wait for a business model and solid strategy will continue to fall further and further behind.

Consider creating a task force of people whose job it is to play. Seek out the people who are inquisitive, communicative, and responsible – perhaps one person from each department and ask them to team up, play with new toys and report their findings on a monthly basis.

The world is moving fast, and it is becoming more fun too. It is rapidly becoming a world where businesses need to learn how to play or get out of the game.