Play & Connections

Ideas favor the playful mind.

Tim Brown‘s talk at the 2008 Serious Play conference (and shared as a TED Talk) about creativity and play has influenced me on many levels. His talk provided me with activities I used in two presentations. His talk reminded me of the importance of play in everyone’s life, not just in the lives of children. And his talk further reminded me that at many of our schools, as kids get older, we corral them into seats, tell them to sit still, and expect them to learn. (This year’s Serious Play Conference will take place August 23-25 in Redmond, Washington.)

As summer arrives, and with it vacation from school, here is Tim Brown’s talk to spur some summer play.

Play can be a hearty path into ideas. Being absorbed in play can leave the brain open to percolating ideas in the background. And it is this percolating of ideas that Steven Johnson believes is part of where good ideas come from. In his book Where Good Ideas Come From – The Natural History of Innovation, Johnson talks about “the slow hunch“, which he describes as ideas that “fade into view” after having time for “cognitive incubation“.

Ideas need time to jell. Many of my blog posts reflect on ideas, and it has always been one of my hopes that writing here at Neurons Firing would help my ideas to more fully form for eventual reflecting back out in some fashion.

Drawing on the “adjacent possible“, a term suggested by Stuart Kauffman, Johnson had me thinking about the value of social networks, both face-to-face and digital. The more we are are in places where ideas are bandied about, whether or not they are ideas directly related to our interests, the more our own ideas have the opportunity to jell and perhaps get influenced by any of those bandied ideas. I think of this hanging out with my networks as having my mind poised at its zone of proximal development, unknowingly ready for some relevant or irrelevant nugget to feed any one of the percolating ideas.

As Johnson puts it:

This is how innovation happens.

Chance favors the connected mind.  

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