Playtime is dangerous. It breaks convention to imagine a world that doesn’t exist. We think about it as the stuff of recess time and children. Behavior adults tolerate because psychologists explain it’s importance for development. But really it’s dynamite waiting to go off.
Yet, when those same adults are stuck, bricked up by the rules they built, play never comes to mind. We name the songbird of invention “Creativity.” However we forget the forest in which she sings.
We look for experts in ideation. We hole up in conference rooms with sticky pads trying to build diagrams. All of this externalizes the effort. We look to people and process and forget play. We forget about flow.
Play begins with a premise. An inciting incident and some agreed upon conditions. What happens next is no one’s prediction. It gets acted out with improvisation. Collective spirits weaving a shared narrative.
It can exist in professional contexts. And everyday rituals. Like meal time.
Consider Kody’s brilliance. The ferry departed Alcatraz island. He and Gordon decide to take one package of every condiment from the snack bar to create a unique sauce. Into the coffee lid went ketchup, mayo, mustard and relish.
Then coffee cream, sweet-n-low and sugar. Into a swirled potion, the boys stirred. Then a potato chip to test. The result?
Disaster. Like a sugar-craved addict messing with Big Mac’s secret sauce.
It was perfect. A careful experiment in flavor with no brain damage. Just a short grimace followed by a round of laughter. It was a happy mistake.
It is easy to admire successful recipes floating to tables in fine restaurants. Brie and Fig Quesadilla from Border Grille (picture above). Mary Sue and Susan did not find tribes close to the Rio Grande playing with french cheese and Mediterranean fruit. They made that up.
They release their beagles to romp. To dart through dandelions and tall grass until the very idea of triple cream meeting up with succulent tree nectar could be folded and fried in a tortilla.
No one invited Paul Deen to mix Velveeta with cocoa powder. She did not copy some tradition brought over on the Mayflower. She just did it.
Most wince at the idea of cheese and chocolate. Then watch the plate empty as the fairy-tale comes to life with guests.
Kody, Gordon, Paula, Mary Sue, and Susan are not phenoms. They are children with no age limit. Unafraid to see what happens next.
It’s not a special muscle. It’s a mindset. One we are born into.
No go out there and make a mistake. You might just be happy about it.
<Click the image to see what Andrew learned when he mixed queso with a chocolate dessert. All in the spirit of Paula Deen. His reaction is priceless>