Ask yourself: “How many times do we expect teams, meetings, conferences to work in an environment that produces dead rats?”
A 2014 study conducted by a group of psychologists and neurologists found that if you take play away from rats (a species studied because of their various overlaps with our human species, eg. social animals, intelligent, etc.) they get depressed. Further, these rats will stay huddled in a corner until they die.
You read that correctly. Play is so central to our existence that without it, rats (and humans) get depressed and ultimately die.
Let’s look at this phenomenon from another angle.
Dr. Stuart Brown is one of the leading neuroscientists studying play. He found that serial killers had a dysfunctional relationship in childhood with, you guessed it, play. Dr. Brown’s career journey is very instructive. He started studying serial killers and has ended up a champion of play. If his journey doesn’t speak to the power and purpose of play, what does?
What are these neuroscientific studies telling us? That play is central to a healthy human. And that without play, we either get depressed (and die) or get warped and kill!
I’m on a mission to take play out of the gutter and put it back in the spotlight. Why? Because, while we say that we honour play, our actions speak louder than words: when important things are to be done or discussed, we send play outside to the playground with all the little kids while the “adults” stay to talk about “important things.” We need to turn that on its head.
Neuroscience is teaching us that “play is the fast track to happiness.” Joe Robinson is a stress management, productivity and work-life trainer and speaker, and the author of Work to Live. He says that there is no quicker transport to the experiential realm and full engagement than through play.
The benefits of play are legion. Right now, I’d like to look at just one specific outcome that is highly relevant to meeting, event and incentive professionals: empathy.
Empathy? What does that have to do with play?
Humans have a condition called stranger stress. This means that if you are in a room with a stranger, even if you aren’t interacting with them, even if you aren’t looking at them, you will feel stress.
But after playing a video game with that stranger—the study examined people playing Rock Band together—empathy is created!
Hmmm. Do I, as a meeting professional, want to create situations where strangers, instead of feeling stress, feel empathy? What a question! Yes! The answer is clearly YES!
So play is a shortcut to eliminate stress and create empathy. It also creates other wonderful things like trust, friendship,collaboration, positive energy, increased performance, less conflict, more resilience, etc, etc, etc.
Whoa. Hold the phone. I want that. I want that at my meetings, events and incentive programs. That’s the sort of profit from play I can get behind!
So bring on the play and say goodbye to dead rats!
– Roger Haskett is a well-known motivational speaker, and the owner and artistic director of Engagement Unlimited. rogerhaskett.com