Understanding playfulness

Posted on 17th Mar 2016

One of the real 'wins' in a team building event is when people who work together go into a more relaxed 'playful mode'. In many companies this is not unusual and people are well used to seeing that side of a colleague, but in some companies, particularly when the work is fairly serious, playfulness is not a cultural norm. We often hear people saying that they have seen a new side of their colleagues as a result of the fun activities that we put on.

This is often just a part of the scenarios that we create, but it can be as a result of dressing up or playing with the kit that we provide, for example invisible ink pens and other spy accessories. We provide digital cameras on many of our activities and send copies of the pictures that are taken after the event. The prize for the winning team on our Murder Mysteries is a Police badge and we say that it comes with special powers of interrogation and arrest that can be used at work. We hear stories of these badges coming out at team meetings and that shared moment of mirth is fun, but also important. None of these moments really change the world, but they all combine to bond teams a little more.

This is, quite understandably, a terrifying idea for most event organisers. The idea that a police badge or a spy pen might appeal to your Finance Director may seem unlikely, so you have to trust in our experience. The key thing is that we never force these situations and we know how to make sure that an event is not corny. For example, with film making some people will want to be in front of the camera (in fancy dress) and others will feel more comfortable behind the camera in a technical role. Equally with toys you can make all sorts of equipment available and people will choose whether or not they carry a spy pen around writing top secret notes to their colleagues, or wear a false moustache in Trafalgar Square.

Playfulness is actually a very human quality, but in business we often suppress it because it can't be measured and budgeted. It is hard to connect with profit, although there is plenty of evidence to link it to engagement, and difficult to defend as an objective. The interesting thing is that you can never tell who will enjoy being playful the most, and the surprises are one of the most delightful things about the opportunity of fun team building events.

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