The Case For a Day at Play

Why pursuing play is essential for leaders

As children, our lives are designed around play. We are constantly on the lookout for fun, adventure and even mischief. These playful moments breed learning and exploration, and they help form who we are as adults.

But then – life happens. We go to school, we get a job. Our priorities change and we begin to focus on becoming and remaining successful grown ups. Our innate connection to play dissipates and we lose touch with this concept that is so formative and influential during our youth. But if play is so important for children’s growth, why is it not a priority for adults, too? It’s an opportunity to gain exposure to new types of thinking and to be a student. No matter our level of success, there is always room to grow. And play encourages growth.

It was with this sentiment that our team spent a day learning and exploring with Voyageur Outward Bound School for an Urban Adventure. We navigated downtown Minneapolis, worked in teams, participated in challenges and reflected by ourselves. We devoted an entire day to play, and in turn we learned invaluable lessons.

Here are some lessons from our day of play:

It is not only acceptable, but encouraged, to congratulate yourself.

Revel in your small wins and celebrate all you have accomplished. Whether it’s crossing something off of your to-do list or completing a year-long project, your work contributes to a greater whole and it is worth celebrating. Excitement is contagious and the more you do it, the easier self-congratulation becomes. 

When someone is at play, their true self is revealed.

Play is a great way to understand who someone truly is because it breaks down guards and encourages a sincere state of child-like pleasure. We are the children within us, and so when we play, our true selves emerge. Additionally, it serves as a good reminder that we are not our titles — we are human beings with personalities and passions.

Every role is essential.

A day of play flattens even the most hierarchical organizations and reveals how seemingly small roles are essential for the success of a whole. From building free-standing structures to leading the team through the city — every single role contributed to the success of our day.

Leadership requires enrollment.

Enrollment is the art of inviting others to come along on your journey because you have identified their interest in it. It doesn’t matter if you are appointed leader or if you step into the role yourself, you must enroll others in order to be successful. This lesson becomes obvious when working with your team outside of the office and adopting new roles.

Spending a day outside of work with your team provides an opportunity to connect and act together with the sole purpose of learning together — and having a good time doing it.

We highly encourage it.

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Do this: Schedule some time for play either with a team or by yourself. Just make sure to reflect afterwards.

If you’re interested in opportunities to do something out of the ordinary, check out our calendar of events here.

See our upcoming community events

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