When was the last time you played?
When my daughter was about 6 months old, I started playing blocks with her. Although, really, I started playing blocks with her nearby.
At first they were crude block stacks designed to entice her to knock them over.
As months went by, my play became more exciting. There was no end game. I had no intention of writing a blog post about stacking blocks. I knew Zooey would knock them down sooner or later. The point was to play.
Learn the Boundaries
Out-of-the-box thinking requires knowledge of the box first. I started by getting used to the blocks. How high can I build a tower? How long can I make this wall? What’s the most stable formation? How can I incorporate the colours?
The main constraint was the timeframe – build it as quickly as possible before cyclone Zooey comes to town.
Speed Drills for Speedy Learning
Speed building was awesome – it forced me to learn from my mistakes quickly, not overthink block placement, build colour into the composition from the start. This is a technique called Rapid Prototyping. You can read more about it in my previous blog post Overcoming Perfectionism.
Soon, I started playing with new constraints to engage with the blocks in different ways: Use only this shape block; use equal numbers of blocks; create symmetrical towers only; build a tower using only primary colours…
My breakthrough day came when I challenged myself to use all the orange blocks and as many neutral blocks as I needed. This was expert block building – canter-levered triangles, balanced cylinders and complimentary use of colour.
This constraint forced me to be super creative because there was no way to complete the challenge without the unconventional use of the blocks.
I was so excited, I built another tower with the left-over neutral blocks and a single primary colour. Another tower and another until I ran out of colours.
Next I built reflection towers.
I was actually blown away at the expansion of my creativity through play. I could never have predicted these outcomes at the beginning.
What would happen if I let myself play more with other mediums? The truth is, I don’t know. I don’t think I have allowed myself to play enough.
As adults, we often measure ourselves by the result. We set goals, predict outcomes, use formulas and recipes, judge what comes up as good enough or not. We forget to play.
It doesn’t mean you can’t set boundaries to play within. Constrain to allow creative interpretation, not to control the outcome. Allow an open-ended exploration. It’s ok if it’s not right, if it’s knocked down by a toddler half way through.
Play is about experimentation and progression.
Where can you loosen up and play a little more in your life?
Seriously, play. I promise it will up your game.
Be Brave and Curious,