group of three people like adults and seniors in the street play

Playing Your Way to Success

Play isn’t just for kids.  In fact, in the world of business, play is a vital tool for increased productivity, team building, boosting creative and innovative ideas, and stress reduction.

I often joke that I have a high play-drive – meaning, for me to feel fulfilled in life and work, elements of play are necessary. Now, this doesn’t mean I’m being silly or frivolous all day, but certainly there is room for light heartedness, creativity, and thinking outside the norm.  I’ve even turned down contracts that I know will stifle my playfulness and creativity. 

World class business schools around the country, such as Duke, MIT, UCLA, and Stanford require at least one applied improvisation course.  They understand the business isn’t linear.  It’s filled with the unexpected and it requires us to shift our perspective and actions, sometimes on a dime.  Equally, they understand the value of play and the benefits of tapping into the imagination to help solve problems, come up with fresh new ideas, and build stronger, more cohesive teams. 

To build your tolerance for the unexpected and handle challenges while maintaining your sanity, play is a powerful tool.

Here are four types of play you can use anytime, anywhere to boost your creativity, energy and productivity:


Engage in interactive games like cards or charades. You can also build something together – this can include cooking or gardening horseback riding, surfing or hiking together.  All things you can do with friends, family and colleagues. 


Shimmy like nobody’s watching: move your entire body, starting with your hands, then arms, feet, legs, head, back and belly. Do this for just 2 minutes. You will be compelled to laugh, giggle or howl in playfulness.  It’s the perfect playful activity to shake off tiredness and give yourself an energy boost.


Pick up any object like a pen off your desk and in 30 seconds come up with as many uses as you can. Don’t stop until the timer goes off.  When you need a perspective shift, or find a solution to a long-standing problem, this is a great way to tap into your convergent thinking abilities.   


The world’s oldest form of play: in a group, sit facing each other and begin telling a story one-word-at-a-time. Using the fairytale framework, the first person begins with the word “once”, and the next person says one word that builds on the first – in this way, each player contributes only one word, listening to the previous player, and together you build a cohesive story that is often surprising and hilarious.  As you go around a couple of times, adding your creative brilliance, the story will find its natural end.  This is a great way to practice listening to each other, creating something new as a team, and having fun with your word choices. The story you end up with will be nothing you could have imagined. 

Researchers and therapists have demonstrated that play increases certain “feel good” neurochemicals by adjusting brain chemistry. So, if you find yourself in a work funk, instead of reaching for that glass of wine, or coffee, reach into your toolbox and pull out one of the 4 types of play and have fun. 

For just two minutes a day, I am 100% confident you will up level your energy and be able to approach the challenges inevitable in any business with more resilience, less stress, and a whole lot more fun.  

As my friend’s grandfather used to say, “Play whenever you can and only be serious when you have to.”

For more information on applied improvisation techniques that boost creativity, communication, and overall joy, contact Vanessa Elle Wilde at [email protected].