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Why the Winner Is Play

Diana Kander makes the point that since the 1980s our country has seen an explosion in programs that teach people how to innovate. Yet during the same period, the overall number of start-ups decreased and the number of business failures increased.

She asserts that the educational experience itself is to blame. Consider the Marshmallow Design Challenge. MBA teams make assumptions, devise plans, and confidentially move forward. Yet the plans fail. How often does this happen? Consistently. What does this say about the way the students are being trained?

Innovation requires more than a plan. Experimenting and testing determine what works and what doesn’t. Once a workable solution is found, collaboration refines the product and often expands its usefulness, as we learned from the inventor of MUTT.

Albert Einstein believed “play is the highest form of research.” Play is essential. Children learn when playing. When schools eliminate play, they’re ignoring sound research demonstrating how children learn best. And they’re denying children opportunities for learning. Such an approach to teaching children is dead wrong.

Play is essential to learning. As the Marshmallow Design Challenge demonstrates, play is a key component of creative thinking and problem solving. Yet, Valerie Strauss reports on how schools are Robbing Kindergartners of Play in the Name of Reform in her column “The Answer Sheet” in The Washington Post. Such a theft is a crime against our children and our future. Finding solutions to complex problems requires creative thinkers, problem solvers who collaborate to find multiple solutions.

 PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

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Play & Collaboration Enhance Creativity & Problem Solving

Recently I spent a delightful hour with an inventor, an experience that shows how essential play is, for adults and children alike, if we’re to be creative thinkers and problem solvers. The process of play leads to learning. I’m thinking of play as any activity we do for pleasure. As we play, we encounter challenges and figure out ways to overcome obstacles, as does the inventor.

Once while digging out a shrub, he could find nothing that worked well for cutting the tap root. That led to the invention of a tough tool with a four inch wide forged steel blade with beveled cutting edge. Owning a specialty gardening tool company, he had access to toolmakers able to produce prototypes from designs he often drew on napkins.

Taking a prototype to a city yard, he asked parks personnel to try it out and tell him how they used it. Upon his return, he received an enthusiastic response from an unexpected source. Street cleaners found the tool ideal for scrapping off the debris that collects around sweeper brushes. Further trials uncovered more unanticipated uses. And this unnamed multi-use tough tool became Mutt.

This story underscores the importance of play and collaboration. The inventor encountered a challenge, enjoyed figuring out how to solve the problem, then invited input on the utility of his solution. By demonstrating the versatility of Mutt, these collaborative efforts provided invaluable information.

Encountering obstacles, pondering solutions until we discover a viable one or decide to move on to something else, as the inventor assures me he has many times, and collaborating are aspects of open-ended play that serve us well.

What’s the moral of this tale? Play and collaborate to become more creative and a better problem-solver.

 PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play