Teaching Talia

TED Talks

Posted on: April 15, 2010

Tim Brown on Creativity and Play

Adults are sensitive to the opinions of others. Children are not. They are secure, so they play.

In creative fields we want employees who are secure enough to take creative risks.

Creative workplaces are comfortable and fun to induce more creativity.

Playfulness is important because it helps us get to better creative solutions, and feel better when we come to those creative solutions.

Kids are more engaged with open possibilities. Kids first ask “What is it” but ALSO “What can I do with it?” and that’s not necessarily what its original purpose is.

This openness is the beginning of exploratory play.

Boxes offer an infinite amount of choices.

30 circles test: Turn as many of the circles into actual things as possible in 1 minute (soccer ball etc).

Sometimes our desire to be original is a form of editing. We edit too much.

Exploring a heap of different things, even if they don’t seem all that different is something that kids to really well. It is a form of ‘play’.

Effect of drugs on creativity: drugs shocked people out of their normal way of thinking, which in turn, caused them to be less inhibited, and more creative. They ‘forgot’ their adult behaviours that got in the way of their creativity.

Kids- 50% of their play time is construction play- they build things (playfully) and tear them down and build them again. This is part of their learning process.
When carried out by designers- it’s called ‘thinking with your hands’. You make multiple low res prototype images based and constructed from a variety of other images.

Productive, creative ideas in design often come from taking a current object and modifying it/ adding to it to get ideas on how to produce your own object (which may be completely unrelated). Eg: Using a roll-on deodorant as the base of the idea for the mouse.

As kids go through school their opportunity to ‘play’ and ‘create’ is taken away. As we get into work (after school) the opportunity is less and less.

Making prototypes, and even rough ones, gives us so much more opportunity to talk about it manfully, and not having to ‘explain’ it.

Objects- crude prototypes
Services- Roll Play!

Adults are reluctant to engage in roll play. Sometimes embarrassment, sometimes they don’t value the outcomes of roll play.
If we look at how children react to roll play we learn that it’s a lot more powerful then we think.
When children play a roll they follow social scripts they’ve learnt from adults.

Designers exploring role plays—> project yourself into the environment you’re designing for.
Sometimes analogous roll play is helpful as well.

Playful exploration, playful building and playful role playing-> ways designers can use play in their work to induce more creative thinking.

Play is not anarchy. Play has rules, particularly group play. This negotiation leads to productive play.

There are rule about HOW to play, and also WHEN to play. Kids don’t play ALL the time.

Teachers transition children through these experiences, as executives take designers through these modes.
Two distinctive modes- generative mode (many ideas), come back together again to look at those ideas. Perhaps in some modes we need to be more serious.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that these states are absolute. You CAN be a professional adult and still have play.

We need trust to play and we need trust to be creative. Therea re a series of behaviours that we’ve learnt as kids which are helpful here.

Exploration: go for quantity.
Buildilng: Think with your hands
Role Play: Act it out – more empathy for the situation you’re designing for, and also create experiences for customers etc. that are seamless and authentic, because you’ve been through them.


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Just finished my Graduate Certificate in Cross Disciplinary Art and Design with UNSW.




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