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Office Transformations: From Workplace to Playspace by Pamela Meyer

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From Workplace to Playspace logo

A detailed roadmap for engendering creativity and engagement into your business.

Being creative on the fly is tough.

To sustain that creativity over years for a wide variety of clients who may or may not share your vision is even tougher. Every artist wrestles with the concept of art vs. commerce and in many cases the two are often mutually exclusive.

At Mightybytes, we constantly struggle with balancing the needs of project timelines and budgets while still devising great creative solutions on demand. Every creative firm worth their salt does (if they tell you otherwise, they’re lying).

Engaging in extracurricular creative activities—brewing beer, playing in rock bands, doing improv and enrolling in writing workshops, to name a few—gives us a leg up, but ultimately this struggle is an ongoing challenge that is especially difficult in trying economic times. This conundrum is both how we thrive and one of the company’s biggest continuous tests.

It is with this in mind that I read Pamela Meyer’s book From Workplace to Playspace: Innovating, Learning, and Changing through Dynamic Engagement

Full disclosure:

We have been talking about doing some of her creativity workshops at Mightybytes and I thought this would give me great insights into her approach (which it did).

Dr. Meyer applies extensive practices from improvisation workshops to help companies transform their business by reclaiming the idea of play and creative exploration as a necessary blueprint for organizational innovation.

There are five main components to her idea of playspace:

  • Relational space in which we value and engage in relations with one another.
  • Generative space in which energy and possibility are generated.
  • Safe space wherein we are free to be ourselves.
  • Timeful space in which we fully engage in the creative moment.
  • Provocative space wherein we are awakened out of the familiar and predictable.

OK, the above list is drastically simplifying the book’s ideas, but hopefully you get the picture. Dr. Meyer backs her ideas up with real-world case studies and hard scientific data to prove her points on how fostering these spaces within our work environment leads to drastic improvements in everything from company morale to boosted levels of creativity and, yes, the bottom line. A number of businesses that have implemented these practices with great success are profiled throughout the book, including Threadless, Google, Chicago Public Schools, and (former Mightybytes client) well-known toy company Learning Curve International. I also must admit that it was refreshing to read about these innovative ideas unfolding in Chicago.

Meyer also includes guiding principles for leaders, facilitators and participants in each chapter, providing an effective blueprint for organizations to adopt these practices at every level. She ends the book with a set of guidelines for maintaining this idea of playspace over time.

Dr. Meyer is the real deal and her credentials certainly can back up the book’s claims:

  • Many years as a director and producer of theater
  • Faculty fellow at DePaul University’s Center to Advance Education for Adults and the Center for Creativity and Innovation
  • Consultant to national and international business clients on business creativity

Here are five take-aways I noted for balancing work and creativity in a new playspace-friendly way:

  • Make your working environment conducive to play. In other words, protect the pool tables.
  • Allow passions and curiosity to generate productive and innovative ideas.
  • Create an environment where people can feel comfortable taking creative risks.
  • Be present in the creative moment while planning for long-term goals.
  • Provoke a healthy disrespect for the impossible.

There are many more where these come from in the book’s pages. According to Dr. Meyer, engaging in these principles on every level fosters awareness, acceptance, appreciation, and action in any organization. I’m looking forward to putting these ideas to the test.

Find out more information on Dr. Meyer’s site at meyercreativity.com

Tim Frick is the author of four books including, most recently, Designing for Sustainability: A Guide to Building Greener Digital Products and Services, from O'Reilly Media. He is @timfrick on Twitter. Mightybytes is a full-service creative firm for conscious companies and a certified B Corporation. Connect with us on Twitter or fill out our contact form.