On June 10 and 11, 2005, at Yale University, Dorothy Singer, Roberta Golinkoff, and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek hosted a conference called PLAY = LEARNING.
They reported that, “We held the conference because of the pressures on young children NOT to play but to learn disembodied facts, even in the crib. (sounds like many training programs – doesn’t it?) We lament our culture's increasing emphasis on drill and practice at the expense of play…. we hoped to do our bit to counter the trend that makes PLAY a four-letter word in our society.”
I wish there were a similar effort to marry play and learning for grown-ups. I believe that learning happens best for adults when they are introduced to a concept and then given some ‘play-time’ with it.
Research tells us that children move through five distinct stages of play as they develop. Babies begin with Exploratory Play; they pick up things and shake them, bang and turn toys around and taste everything. This reminds me of what adults do with ideas; they ‘pick them up’, bang them against what else they know and see how they feel.
Then children move on to Functional Play; they use objects the way they were meant to be used; they roll a ball, stack blocks, and listen to a toy phone. This type of activity could be correlated with adults trying out the new idea or skill against their own set of experiences and testing out whether they new idea or skill will really work in their world.
As toddlers race towards the terrible twos, they begin to use Creative – Symbolic Play; that is, they may pretend a box is a train; the box symbolizes a train. They make one object creatively serve the purpose of another known object. Could adults be doing a form of this when they begin to substitute what they are learning for what they have known previously?
Between the ages of three and four children discover the delight in Pretend Play; they ‘act like’ other people, they take on other’s behaviours and mannerisms for short periods of time. This sounds like role-playing and improvisation to me; both effective methods of embedding a new skill.
And finally, by the time the kids they reach school age, they are ready to engage in Sequenced Pretend Play; they can interact with others with their newly developed skills and they can adjust their behaviours and reactions when encountering a new environment or circumstance. I think this is what we all do when we get back to our offices after a training session. We begin to practice the new skills in short spurts, at first, with our colleagues and later embracing them as our own.
So, is there any fun in your change initiatives? I developed Transition Poker to help you with that. When folks in my Leader’s Summit sessions are learning how to be strong change leaders, we take those ideas and, well… play with them. They get dealt a ‘hand’ of change realities and then they place their bets. By the time the game is over, players have a much fuller understanding, and confidence, about exactly what, and how, they will navigate the high-risk, high-reward territory of organizational transitions.
Does your team or organization need to know how to respond to people’s resistance to change, invite collaboration and work around the barriers that missing resources and stakeholder apathy present? Then the Transition Poker Workshop just may be for you. If you want to bring some fun to your organization’s learning programs, find out how you can use Transition Poker to fire-up your next training session, call me today.