Last night there were 15 of us that gathered for our monthly Participative Leadership Practitioners Circle. Our focus was on play, responding to a desire expressed by many to be in, learn about, and just do.
We began with simple checkin. Standing in circle, we invited five words to describe how each person was, as well as a gesture. The gesture was then mimicked back by all in the circle.
I offered some simple context that I find helpful with play. First from Robert Poynton’s book on improv and leadership, Everything is an Offer, I shared his principles: let go, notice more, use everything. Second, a principle of expansion — “our bodies know things our minds can’t know.” And third, a lovely quote from artist Brian Andreas, “I figured out that if I keep it up, some day I’ll probably get wise enough to be silly in public, but I probably won’t wait that long.”
The first half of this meeting was all about the doing part. We welcomed participant offerings in the moment.
First from Jen Smith was a set of cards (I think they are called Table Topic Conversations). We each drew a card and spoke an impression or two on the question asked. It turned out quite serious — they were deep questions. However, I loved the context that Jen shared of using them at the start of very traditional board meetings. Questions off topic can feel like movement into play and authentic spaces.
Second, from Angel, another round of questions — what do you feel passionate about? This had a similar feel to the first round. And for similar purpose. It helps get more deliberately to the energy of what people really care about. That I find is essential.
Third, stirring it up a bit, a banana relay, offered by Glen Brown (and a sock war — which you just will have to ask about). Whereas the first two were more about shifting the pattern through reflection, this one helped get us moving. Simple play. Relay. Run around the circle. Pass the banana to the next on your team. First team to eat it wins.
Fourth, offered by Ben Mates was a counting game (or old college drinking game), Bizz Buzz. Start counting by ones, going around the circle. If you come to a number that includes a three in it, or, is a multiple of three, say Bizz instead of the number. If you come to a number that includes a seven, or, is a multiple of seven, say Buzz. Good fun and laughter.
Fifth, back to some verbal exchange and play. From Carla Kelly, the invitation to share something about yourself that nobody in the room would know.
Last, from Judith Oki, using story cubes (large die with six separate images on it) to begin a story with image rolled, and then have the next person in the circle pick up the story and continuing it with the image that they rolled.
OK, it was all good fun. I found myself in many questions about the different kinds of play.
- Play that is still verbal, yet a departure from the norm of meetings.
- Play that is just silly, to invite us to be playful. I would say further to bring an energy of openness. To get unstuck.
- Play that is for particular purpose. I tend to do more of this. An exercise followed by conversation groups to notice principles of cooperation, teamwork, beauty, etc. I’ll often have people name what they learned. But while playing, I don’t want to offer all of the detail of that. I want them / us to be in our bodies.
- Play to feel a wholeness. Play in many forms breaks patterns. If I need more than “play just because,” I count on the extreme relevance of releasing patterns of thought, physical habit, meeting expectation. Worded differently, I count on more holistic experiences to tap the intelligence and heart of individuals and of fields of people.
Our last half of our play night was three different questions for a mini cafe.
Round 1: Why play? (…it is co-created…for laughter…to live out loud and holistically…it’s all play anyway…for spontaneity…just to have fun…to lighten things up…to get out of our heads…to change the energy and chemistry of the room (I sometimes speak about this as another way to entangle)…it brings people together…)
Round 2: What would it take for you to host more play? (…more ideas and stuff to try…courage (and perhaps working with friends)…play first; ask permission later…a bit of planning…a morale to the story (or purpose)…belief in play as a way to tap the brilliance of the group…)
Round 3: What is one practice you would commit to for the next season? (…cultivate surprise…increase consciousness…play more…believe in the purpose of engaging the body…smile…be silly…be bold…learn more drinking games (funny how these can be helpful)…tickle someone…)
Thanks all for a great night. There is much from the experience and the reflection together that puts me in the spirit of wanting to do more.