The future of work is play
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The future of work is play



A keynote presentation on the science behind play's benefits to the workplace.

A keynote presentation on the science behind play's benefits to the workplace.



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  • 4 minute trailer
  • Thought experiment! Imagine a world without play. What would be there? What wouldn’t be? Would there even be a world without play? Would there be thought experiments?
  • Connotations of play: A byproduct of our Calvinist over-work ethic.Playconnotes self-indulgence, hedonism, frivolity, and immaturity.
  • The immense and astonishing creativity of the universeIt started, essentially, as a hydrogen cloud
  • Not all play is creative but all creativity is based on play. The astonishing creativity of the universe, are the fruits of its epic, extravagant, adventurous play. BRIAN SWIMME – jar of hydrogen at desk
  • Slide 5:Gordon & Kerrie--note: videopreview shows up only when you enter the slideshow
  • Scientists are finding that play has many different phylogenetic roots. It didn’t just emerge in mammals and birds. They’re finding play behavior in lizards, alligators, octopi, sharks, but why?Play is risky business. We’re distracted from predators and using up valuable resources. There must be some really good reason!
  • BRAIN ResearchRemoved the pre-frontal cortex from rats - higher cognition: problem solving, decision-making, language, higher order processing, the fancy stuff. Leaves just the brain stem. Do you still have play? YES! rats still played. Thrilling to researchers play sat along side the other survival drives like eating, sleeping, breathing, mating. Play is at the primal base - essential to survival.
  • Super food of attitude & behavior. Like KALE! Packed with benefits across the board: behavioral, social, emotional, physical, cognitive, and spiritual. It’s the Kale that lifts all boats.
  • Play literally shapes the brain, creating new neural networks and strengthening and reinforcing existing ones. It’s literally how we are wired to learn…throughout life.Research – PLAY enlarges Pre-Frontal Cortex. Rough & tumble play in rats increases the size of their pre-frontal cortexes. All that negotiating of risk and relationship increases our executive functioning…makes us better decision makers, problem solvers, able to read subtle nuances in relationship!
  • Slide 9: research on pre-frontal cortex
  • A mature mountain goat that played well as a juvenile
  • We have a love/hate relationship to surprise! Excitement and terror. Play lets us practice being surprised.In a world of uncertainty and change (movement), adaptability (the ability to be moved by and with the world) is survival. If a species becomes rigid or over specialized, it goes extinct.The sheer joy of play is a brilliant evolutionary strategy because it drives us to engage elements of uncertainty, surprise and risk and stay flexible… prepares us for the uncertainty of life…the biggest threat of all.
  • Those chemicals are critical to our well-being.
  • Laughter
  • Research:cat hairs in rat cage. Brains flooded with cortisol, stress levels increased. Removed the hairs and instantly the rats engaged in rambunctious physical rough and tumble play. Reduced the cortisol levels faster than if they’d just come out and pretended everything was fine. Physical play bouts reduced stress.
  • Slide 14:Polar bear and husky playing
  • Play is brain fertlizer. Google OfficeOpens our imaginations. Play ignites the engine of discovery by sparking curiosity. Curiosity has gotten us new food sources, tools, inventions, ways of getting along. Play primes us to invent and to innovate. It’s a limbo space, not quite reality, not quite fantasy - the space to tinker.
  • 15.1 Play is brain fertilizer
  • Slide 16.1—option 1
  • Slide 16.2—option 2, pretty obvious choice although I don’t know that he was known for being playful?
  • Slide 16.2—option 1.Iwas trying to think of famous female inventors or innovators and came up with Mary Shelley, Jane Goodall and Marie Curie—not sure if any of these work for you.
  • Why are we killing each other and the planet
  • We see some hints of integral showingWhere does play fit in? How is play integrative?
  • Interpersonal Neurobiology offers a state perspective. Maybe the role of play in well-being/integration/differentiation & communion will become clearer from a developmental perspective 
  • In the last two decades Attachment Theory has become one of the most important conceptualframeworks for understanding the development of personality and psychological functioning.Overview of attachment theory:Formulated by Bowlby - attachment theory proposes that because of its dependence on others, the infant is born into the world genetically programmed to seek proximity to its “attachment figures”In the baby’s first year, its whole nervous system is under radical construction and the attachment experience lays the foundation for the structures of responsiveness throughout life Baby seeks proximity. Originally Bowlby thought it was just for soothing but now we know there’s way more to it.
  • The two attachment tools a mother has are soothing and stimulation. Stimulation is just as important as soothing is. The mother and baby’s attuned play generatessynchronized waves of glee and rest.These rhythms of activation and deactivation enable the child to tolerate strong emotions of all kinds to develop affect regulation but they also create dopamine mediated channels to limbic brain that associate these rides of social engagement as pleasurable – as play.If the baby is awake and comfortable then the pair spend most of their time cooing and ogling at each other in a call and response love song that erupts regularly into cascades of giggles and delight. While it’s easy to mistake these intimate interactions as delightful, but ultimately frivolous byproducts of the mother/child bond, in reality they are the essence of attachment and a cornerstone for healthy development. Through eye contact, facial expressions, and melodic vocal tones, the mother and baby synchronize their emotions, moving together in repeated cycles from states of calm to heightened energetic states of high arousal. It is in this deep attunement through rhythms of stimulation and soothing, activation and deactivation, that the baby learns to trust its environment, regulate its emotions, develop its capacity for social engagement and cultivate the flexible strategies for coping with the novelty and stress that is inherent in human interactions and life as a whole
  • we’re wired to feel pleasure engaging life as play.When we play, we feel joy – reward systems in brain light up – dopamine, oxytocin cocktail
  • The attachment patterns that get established in the first year of life turn into a kind of cognitive “schema” that gets neurologically “set” in the brain over the first three years of life.Internal working models are generalizations the child makes about the world that become its unconscious interpretive filters through which she sees herself and others.
  • World as Playground: The securely attached growing child expects the world to be friendly and adventures to be enriching. Ambiguity and uncertainty are exciting and stimulate exploratory play. Strangers are potential playmates and new environments are potential playgrounds.They tend to solicit a positive, supportive response from others.It enables the child to accurately read subtle cues about intention and sense real danger signals. It also gives the child the resources to respond to and recover from dangerous situations when they occur.
  • World as Proving Ground: While the anxiously attached child wants to trust others, his insecurity drives him to both prove (to himself, others, and the world) that he deserves to get his needs met or test others, forcing them to prove themselves. These individuals might be driven by a need for societal approval and strive to meet cultural standards for success that don’t ultimately provide happiness.
  • World as Battleground: The child sees a world full of threats (hot war) or alienation (cold war). She feels fundamentally unsafe in the world and expects to either be attacked (hot war) or ignored (cold war). The high degree of autonomy she needs prevents her from experiencing support from others or the world. She retreats into small environments over which she can feel some control. Many people I’ve met who are consciously propagating memes of a living universe and cosmic consciousness, established a bond with the universe precisely because human relationships were traumatic and the human world was a source of pain. The embodiment of these concepts requires that we engage the relational field…intimately…and playfully because that’s where the original trauma occurred. And relationship was our original universe. You can’t heal relationship trauma but having epiphanies about an integral universe. Not sufficient.
  • Using attachment terminology, the West has an attachment disorderWe are both a proving and approval ground – orange memeAnd we are a battlefield that disparages relationship – Correspondences with developmental levelsAnxious – blue/orangeRed/orange meme – Avoidant
  • The amazing benefits of playfulness.It’s important to note that the play during the first two years of life is essential but not adequate for healthy development. As the brain continues to develop, it requires play throughout childhood to continually nourish neuronal growth. Rough and tumble play, in particular, has been established as a critical feature for the development of social skills
  • Spontaneity as integration!
  • Researchers studyingplayfulness assume it’s a personality trait. But neoteny and evolutionary biology tells us that playfulness is inherent to our species and developmental models tells us it’s inherent to our evolution. So what’s going? If it is an inherent characteristic then something must happen in the course of individual development that either fosters or inhibits our inherent play drive. Because play is so critical for liberation/evolution, liberating the play drive seems to be pretty important.
  • Safety is Key – It’s a condition for transformation“Safety is functionally our transformative state and neural exercises of this safe state, like play, enable the social engagement system to work. When we feel safe, we have access to neural circuits that enable us to be social and happy and playful. In this framing, play literally becomes a functional therapeutic model that exercises the neural regulation of the face, creating a sense of safety, playfulness, and joy! (Porges & Buczynski, 2011)Connection is the basis of safety!Play practices safety – normalizes riskWhen we’re happy, we feel safePlay exercises neurons/social engagement brain. The vagal brake. The difference between fight and flight.Sympathetic arousal that normally activates the defensive responses of fight and flight get repeatedly Non-verbal, highly attuned right brain to right brain play with attachment figures. Hmmm…Rough and tumble play – negotiating subtle signals.

The future of work is play The future of work is play Presentation Transcript

  • Imagine a world without play
  • Top three reasons we do not take play seriously
  • A Baby Universe
  • 13.7 Billion years later
  • Everyone Plays
  • Time to study some rats
  • Benefits of playfulness • • • • • • • coping skills divergent thinking problem solving physical activity emotional regulation Imagination Longevity (10 years)
  • The Super Food of behavior • • • • • • • Cognitively Emotionally Physically Socially Culturally Mentally Spiritually
  • Cognitive benefits
  • Reading the subtle nuances of relationship!
  • Play... • • • • Creates a sense of safety Instigates “Approach behavior” Normalizes risk Delights in uncertainty
  • I’ve totally got this under control
  • Surprise!!!
  • Nothing enhances our well-being more than marinating in joy sauce. • Every organ benefits from it (expect maybe hair) • People who are playdeprived have a life expectancy 5-10 years lower than people who play • Play deprivation is a greater risk factor than smoking & obesity
  • Laughter • 100 – 200 laughs a day are equivalent to 10 of minutes jogging. • It deepens breathing, improves circulation and releases natural painkillers in the body. • Children laugh an average of 400 times/day. Adults laugh about 17 times/day.
  • And that is not funny
  • Stress relief
  • Creates social bonds • • • • Self-handicapping Sensitive attunement Cooperation Morality
  • Genuine, pure play is one of the main bases of civilization. – Johan Huizinga
  • Intellectual Benefits
  • Play is the highest form of research. - Albert Einstein
  • It is in playing and only in playing that the individual child or adult is able to be creative…and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self. –D.W. Winnicott
  • “ The truly great advances of this generation Will be made By those who Can make outrageous connections, and only a mind which knows how to play can do that. ” –Nagle Jackson
  • Neoteny: The retention of juvenile characteristics into adulthood
  • So what happened?
  • Interpersonal Neurobiology Differentiation and Linkage
  • Developmental Perspective • Complexity science: Sensitive dependence on initial conditions • Neuroscience: the experience-dependent brain
  • Attachment Theory
  • Attuned Play
  • Engagement as Play
  • Internal Working Models • World as Playground • World as Proving ground • World as War Zone
  • World as Playground • Image of Child at adventure playground?
  • World as Proving Ground
  • World as War Zone
  • Internal Working Memes Playground Proving Ground War Zone
  • An Insecure Society
  • Playfulness • Physical Spontaneity • Social spontaneity • Cognitive spontaneity • Manifest joy • Sense of humor
  • “ Spontaneity In spontaneity, personal freedom is released, and the total person, physically, intellectually, and intuitively, is awakened…Every part of the person functions together as a working unity, one small organic whole within the larger organic whole for the agreed environment. ” - Viola Spolin
  • Playfulness is our original design and our evolutionary potential
  • Evolving through Play
  • Play literally becomes a functional therapeutic model that • Image the neural regulation of exercises of polar bear and husky the face, creating a sense of safety, playfulness, and joy! -Steven Porges
  • ”Play is the exultation of the possible.” – Martin Buber