“Play is the answer to the question, ‘How does anything new come about?'” – Jean Piaget, Born Aug. 9, 1896.
One of the wonderful things about working in marketing and advertising – especially the creative end of the business – is that you get paid to play.
But even though it's play, you have to take it seriously. It's work, after all.
You need space to play, you need materials to play with, and you need dedicated time to do nothing but play.
Take the project you're working on. A funnel. A sequence. A letter. Even just loose ideas. Whatever. Take the pieces of it, and write them on individual notecards. Start moving them around.
I do this digitally on my tablet or phone using mind map software, but the idea is the same – I can write things down, and then move them around relative to each other.
Put different ones next to one another. Put them in the opposite order you're planning on and see what happens. Shuffle them and deal them randomly and see what happens.
Note every interesting thing you come up with during play time. I take photos or screenshots when something interesting comes up, and then keep playing. When play time is over, get to work and make it happen.
You don't have to come up with something revolutionary – just one little twist that goes beyond what you planned to do. Just enough to make it special and unique.
Taking play time seriously gives you an edge.
You have a creative and innovative advantage over everyone else that always works and never plays… And a productivity advantage over anyone who always plays and never works.
In the state of play is where you can unblock stuck ideas. Formulate new plans. Combine, compare, and contrast ideas without restriction. Without rules.
And it's that arena where you develop what makes your stuff – your material – different and specific to you. That's how you stand out. That's how you get remembered. That's how you endure and grow and remain interesting.
And hey, you don't have to play with your work for play to benefit your work, either. I keep LEGOs in my office. I have lots of dice and cards and chits and pieces from all sorts of games. Building, playing, stacking, sorting – it opens paths in the brain. It unlocks treasures.
Ideas that come from play are FUN. Not just for you, but they have an infectious kind of fun that will rub off on others.
Do you have a favorite way to bring play into your work? Let me know!