Problem Solving

Play is
Serious Business

Step away from that desk, take a break, and have some fun. Play is a way to open your mind when you are so focused you can’t see past that computer screen—it turns tunnel vision into a wider view. Play can stimulate the imagination and solve problems. It silences your “inner editor” that censors your thoughts and ideas so you can see the problem in a new light and create a fresh, new solution. Are you game?Red Rubber Dodgeball

Play Ball

A ball can be used as a creative tool, but even more than that, it is a symbol to remind you to play, take that break, refresh your mind and look at a problem in a different way. Take five and re-energize the brain by using the ball to:

  • Bounce off the ground or wall
  • Play catch with
  • Game of four square or dodgeball
  • Dribble it
  • Squeeze it
  • Toss it…
Brainstorming Tool

In a brainstorming/problem-solving meeting, use the ball as the device to let people talk, give an idea, add to an idea, change the question… Toss it, roll it, pass it, bounce it; however you want to get it to the next person. Give it to someone who has not spoken, and they are the only one allowed to talk.
1. Facilitator shares a question that the group would like to gather input on. If possible, post the question somewhere visible to the team.
2. Team forms a circle or sits around a table.
3. Toss the ball to a team member.
4. Receiving team member answers the question with an idea, adds to a previous idea, changes the question to look at it from a different viewpoint, or can pass.
5. Facilitator captures answers somewhere visible to the team.
6. Keep going until the team runs out of ideas.
7. Review and discuss ideas.

Creative Warm-Up Exercise

Place a ball in the middle of a table, then challenge the teams to get the ball as close to the end of the table as possible without touching it or the table. The winning team is the one that gets the ball closest to the end of the table without it falling off.

Variation on the warm-up: have one team on each side of the table with the purpose of getting the ball off the opponent’s side of the table without touching the ball or table. 

The purpose of this exercise is to get the mind working to solve problems beyond the expected solution—think differently.



“TED Talk” on Play

A pioneer in research on play, Dr. Stuart Brown says humor, games, roughhousing, flirtation and fantasy are more than just fun. Plenty of play in childhood makes for happy, smart adults—and keeping it up can make us smarter at any age.

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old;
we grow old because we stop playing.”

George Bernard Shaw