Get Out and Play

Stuart Brown champions play. Doctor, psychiatrist, founder of the National Institute for Play, I first learned about his work when he appeared in conversation with Krista Tippett and Paul Holdengräber several years ago at the New York Public Library.

Since then he's been a featured speaker at a TED-sponsored conference on play, published a book--Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul, and regularly co-teaches a Fast-Company-featured class--From Play to Innovation--with IDEO's Brendan Boyle at Stanford's d. school. At the same time, in the spirit of that d. school class, play has become something of a trending topic for companies seeking to catalyze creativity and original thinking in their employees and workplaces, and it continues, as always, to be a subject of passionate consideration in parenting.

What continues to set Brown's primary focus apart from the workplace- and child-related conversations, however, is his attention to the powerful value of pure, unadulterated play for grown ups--separate and apart from any teambuilding, client idea-generating exercises we may do at the office. When we truly play, according to Brown, we're engaging in something that's done voluntarily, for its own sake, is fun, feels good, gives us a sense of freedom from time, has the potential for improvisation, allows us to let go from ourself--and all of that leads to a desire to keep going, keep doing it.

For adults it can be hard work to let go, drop fully into that state of play. Yet play's benefits are real, broad and deep. Play allows us to explore the possible, makes us happier, smarter. At summer's mid-point, with Wimbeldon wrapped up, Jeter's 3,000th hit come and gone, the Tour de France half over, NFL preseason--perhaps--just weeks off, take time to invigorate your soul--get out and play.

You can watch Brown's 2008 appearance at the Art Center College of Design's Serious Play conference in Pasadena below--in it he describes the events leading to the playful dance between polar bear and husky, above. You can see his NYPL conversation with Krista Tippett and Paul Holdengräber here and listen to his original radio conversation with Krista Tippett here.

Photo: Norbert Rosing