Playfulness is Contagious

Published: November 9, 2012

The host and his panel had two essential traits in common. They came to play and they came to share. The Du Page Children's Museum recently hosted an event, Creating a Culture of Innovation, featuring the co-founder of the Chicago Innovation Awards, Tom Kuczmarski. For over an hour, Tom led an exchange with a panel of recent award winners energizing a full house at North Central College with stories of exploration, failure, and discovery.

Playfulness is contagious. Innovative leaders attract open-minded talent who collaborate in a gradual evolution of a culture that creates things that are new and have value. Invention and advancement are the byproducts. The Team Clock model looks at this in four quadrants:

Investment: A willingness to embrace differences, constructive challenge, and experimentation is woven into the fabric of the team’s mission and behavioral norms.

Trust: Interdependence arises from accountability to the agreed-upon norms and the energizing collaboration that ensues as teammates grow closer by trading ideas, practicing respect, and allowing vulnerability.

Innovation: Comfort is sacrificed for excitement and fun and teammates are willing to stretch themselves, take smart risks, and even fail if it provides a lesson for future success.

Distancing: Moving away from the way it’s always been requires poise. Re-engaging in another round of creation takes resilience. Innovative teams are able to let go of the past and embrace an unknown future.

The social interaction following the Du Page Children’s Museum event was remarkably different than the networking that characterized the pre-event gathering. Prior to being inspired by Tom and his panel of innovators, most of us caught up on work and family news, renewed old acquaintances, and shared introductions to new colleagues. After the event, the room was alive with ideas and collaborations. Business cards and contact information was exchanged specifically for follow-up reasons and task lists were ignited.

Playfulness is contagious.

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst University where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.