In their book Primed to Perform, authors Neel Doshi and Lindsay McGregor demonstrate that “why people work determines how well they work.” Somewhat surprisingly, we learn that play is the strongest driver of performance.
In the workplace, play refers to an employee’s ability to be curious, to experiment, and – more importantly – to survive failures. When employees are given the opportunity to try new ways to get the work done, they perform better. This concept works even in highly-tactical environments like assembly lines. Just add an andon cord and see what happens.
Several years ago, before I understood this idea, I started to use play by allowing employees to set the agenda for meetings and presentations. I had noticed greater employee participation with this approach. You can call it a micro-application of the play concept. Here are two specific examples:
- When I’m invited to present to a group, I reserve at least two-thirds of my allotted time for Q&As, which means that two-thirds of my presentation is driven by their curiosity.
- This month, I will be in Europe to meet with 100 of my team members over 2 days. Using Tricider.com, I invited them to identify many of the topics to be covered during the meeting.
I believe it was Stephen Covey who said (or repeated) that “the key to commitment is involvement”. Play is something we willingly get involved with. We do it out of pure enjoyment.
Lucky for us, it also increases performance.