Curiosity Matters

An Exploration of Branding, Design and Cultural Trends

How Childhood Play Leads To Creativity

Just read this article, Give childhood back to children: if we want our offspring to have happy, productive and moral lives, we must allow more time for play, not less - written by Dr. Peter Gray, research professor of psychology at Boston College. His thesis is that it's human, even animal nature for children to play - an act that helps them develop a myriad of skills from conflict resolution to creativity. But this ability to play is being threatened by education systems around the world, replacing free times with schooling or unorganized play with formalized athletics. Anyone who's watched a cat video featuring more than one kitten knows that constant play is critical to understanding a person's physical and emotional boundaries, among other skills learned.

Gray makes the point that

"... Even more than in the past, creativity is a key to economic success. We no longer need people to follow directions in robot-like ways (we have robots for that), or to perform routine calculations (we have computers for that), or to answer already-answered questions (we have search engines for that). But we do need people who can ask and seek answers to new questions, solve new problems and anticipate obstacles before they arise. These all require the ability to think creatively. The creative mind is a playful mind."

As I came out of working on a Saturday yesterday, an act that is by no means rare in the working world, especially the fast-paced world of advertising, I found myself craving a bit of play, of creative inspiration. Just as children's playtime is being threatened, adults find themselves increasingly working all hours. In New York, it's not uncommon for the phrase "I had to work over the weekend" to be some form of bragging, or even considered a right of passage to success. But how does this effect our ability to be creative or make original connections? At Miami Ad School's Planning Boot Camp, I remember our first Weekend Workshop teacher taught a class on the overall strategic process - informing us that the trick to coming to an insight is to walk away from the work at hand after absorbing every bit of information you could. Take a walk. Go for a run. Go to a museum and as your focusing on something else, connections will be made in your brain.

So if you find yourself actually having a few minutes to yourself during the workweek, go outside. Take a walk. Actually make use of that game room your company installed years ago. Flip through the magazines at your local magazine stand. Go to a museum. Or dip onto a store-filled street. Because in the world of creativity, success doesn't just come with sheer willpower and hard work but rather, freeing up your mind to play.