Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Play: Tim Brown on 'Serious Play'

Another TED talk, this time at the Serious Play conference in 2008.

In this, Tim Brown talks about how fearing the judgment of our peers represses our creativity and prevents us coming up with wild ideas.

He explains that when adults experience a new situation, they want to CATEGORISE it very quickly. They don't want to play with it or explore, they want to fit it into the world and uses they already know.

On the other hand kids ask: What is it? What can I do with it?

Brown discusses how to create environments where you can play. Play isn't anarchy; it has rules about how to play and when to play. Brainstorming environments, for instance, need rules in order to help us break the rules effectively - the most obvious example of that is the brainstorming principle of defering judgment on ideas until you've finished.

He observes something I'd never thought of before - that sometimes our desire to be original can be a form of editing. We stop ourselves from getting into a groove (or a rut) with something we're enjoying; even though that groove might be fun or playful, we judge it harshly simply because it's not 'original'.

You need trust, says Brown. Create a place where you have the security to take risks and play. At his company, IDEO, all the employees are hired because they are best friends. Friends are a shortcut to trust and playfulness.

The other principles he suggests are:

1. Build something. Create something tangible to comment on, and once you have that prototype, keep refining and challenging it.

2. If you're creating an environment or a situation, role play it - act it out to create empathy with the users, and to see how it'll work.

Be playful and create real stuff.

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