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Published: 14 May 2016

By Andy Ross

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We like to play. It is how we learn and how we get better at what we do. So why don’t we do more of it?

For some reason, we are programmed to think that work is just that. It must be work if it produces something. It must be work if it means we are busy. So, being in a philosophical frame of mind because of a number of conversations that I had been having over the past few days, I have begun to look at things differently. Oh, and also because the fields are full of lambs gambolling and playing with each other, suddenly setting off dashing together up the fields and then just as suddenly stopping in a mad jumble of legs and heads. It looks like fun!

Playing is important. It allows us to experiment while keeping us safe. It allows us to challenge ourselves while keeping things secure. It allows us to find new ways of doing while building on the ways we already know. We know it IS important. That is why the children’s channel Nickelodeon designated a Worldwide Day of Play which, counter-intuitively, encouraged children to go outside and play instead of switching on the telly. (Of course, old cynic that I am, there must be An Ulterior Motive, but that is a discussion for another time over a glass or two of wine.)

 Some of the most interesting people we know play all the time. They are curious about the world, and so they play in it, testing boundaries, and theories, and hypotheses, and structures, and colours, and and and. That is why those people are interesting, at least to us. And that is also why they are great designers and colourists and musicians and performers and artists. They do really simple things such as asking a question - “What happens if I do this instead of this?” Out of such simple beginnings great things can happen. 

Perhaps we need a new day or better yet a new mindset. One that doesn’t say that “Play is OK” but one that says “Playing is essential”. It is not quite as catchy as a phrase but it is Much More Important!