Creativity and the Power of Play

3 Studios Demonstrate How Setting Aside Time to Play Can Benefit Morale, Productivity and the Bottom Line.

While messing around on Facebook isn’t likely to be celebrated in the workplace, some forms of play are encouraged during the 9-to-5. In fact, large-scale companies like IBM have leveraged office hours for research and development, including time to explore and create new products, services and solutions. The tech company celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2011, recognizing the scientific and technological breakthroughs of its IBM Research division Innovations in computer memory, programming languages and copper interconnects are just some examples of what IBM Research has delivered—and what play can do.

In 2004, Google encouraged its staff to experiment through Google’s 20% time allotment, in which employees used paid time to work on anything they wanted, helping to produce Gmail and Google Maps, among other products. Tech blogger and journalist Ryan Tate wrote an entire book on the subject, titled The 20% Doctrine: How Tinkering, Goofing Off, and Breaking the Rules at Work Drive Success in Business. Although Google killed 20% time in 2013, some critics, including Tate, believe that Google employees will continue to play no matter what.


It’s not just big corporations pushing for what some have called “playtime,” “R&D,” “lab work” or “experimentation.” Designers at small and large studios want to play around, too, and have been creating fresh results during their regularly scheduled sprints. Sprints require development teams to work on a project’s components for an allotted time usually less than a month and at the conclusion, a goal has been reached, such as the creation of an app or web plug-in.

At Myjive, a studio based in Charlotte, NC, the studio’s incubator, Myjive Labs, has created a range of products through their once-per-month four-hour team-driven sprints: augmented reality playing cards, near field communication (NFC) key chains, projection mapped iPad-controlled video games, Leap Motion board games, digital sales tools, a web-based 3D stock image creator and Arduino robots, among others. Executive creative director and partner Ron Edelen stresses the value of these experiments. “Myjive Labs is an innovation playground that pushes emerging technologies into human experiences to sustain our heritage as pioneers of digital advertising,” he says. “This is a branch of Myjive where our entire team will live, learn and play with emerging technologies to incubate and curate digital ideas worth sharing.

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