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Get Back in the Sandbox: Teaching CEOs How to Play

33 Pages Posted: 4 Dec 2012  

Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries

INSEAD - Entrepreneurship and Family Enterprise

Date Written: December 4, 2012

Abstract

This article discusses the role of play in human creativity. Play has always played an essential part in the evolution of Homo sapiens. Play helps children to develop mentally, physically and socially. Play, artistic expression, creativity, and evolutionary human development have been closely allied. Play has been the foundation of language, myths, rituals, behavior, and meaning. However, play is usually seen as a feature of childhood. How important is play for adults? Has our playfulness been dissipated by cultural indoctrination? In this article, I argue that the proclivity to play remains an essential part of our make-up throughout our life and that we should make greater efforts to retain play as a mode of learning and the source of creative production. In this context, I explore the role of play at work and the association between play and “flow” — our periods of peak productivity. I propose an acronym — MMMM — to describe the essence of play, the four Ms standing for Me-time, Make-belief, Mastery, and Meaning. I discuss the importance of transitional objects and transitional space in the context of play and meaning. Our earliest meaning-making activities have their origins in the early developmental trajectory formed by the interaction of mothers (or other caretakers) and infants. In this interface, through play, an intermediate area (third domain of functioning) is created where primary creativity (illusion) exists and can develop. Finally, I take the example of an adult educational leadership program that uses organizational play therapy as a means of individual reinvention.

Keywords: Play, Flow, Creativity, Transitional Object, Transitional Space, Organizational Play Therapy, Educational Play

Suggested Citation

Kets de Vries, Manfred F.R., Get Back in the Sandbox: Teaching CEOs How to Play (December 4, 2012). INSEAD Working Paper No. 2012/125/EFE. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2184916 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2184916

Manfred Kets de Vries (Contact Author)

INSEAD - Entrepreneurship and Family Enterprise ( email )

Fontainebleau Cedex, F-77305
France

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