Our ability to reach unity and diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilization.Mahatma Gandhi
When I was a child, my favorite doll was Barbie. She was so cool. She had a plane, a convertible, and a camper. My best friend, Darrin, played the part of Ken, my assistant.
Darrin and I would play for hours and hours, taking on adventures, jet setting around the world and flying down the street in the convertible. There was nothing that we could not do and accomplish.
Even though I was clearly the boss in our adventures because he was the assistant – LOL, I reflect on how we played. It was fair and impartial, and his ideas were as exciting as mine. We had equity in our play.
I think this is an essential element missing from our interaction with one another, equity.
People need to feel included and valued. It really can be a struggle to find your voice, gain a seat at the table, as well as a solid identity that is valued in the world.
We strive for equality, and yet we don’t feel that way.
Our feelings of equality go out the window when our thinking falls to someone having something more or perceived to be more. At work it could be a bigger office, a bigger chair, a more significant title… you get the drift.
But what if we measured success by contributing to a more significant outcome. And what if that contribution was also measured by having an equitable position where you made space for other points of view.
What if making space was fun like using a Jamaican term of “Small Up Yourself.” Or ones where you encouraged positive disagreements to expand the ideas and to gain a deeper understanding?
When we approach things like a child, with a playful heart, we are naturally curious and open to other ideas. Kids make space for other kids to get in on the action. They build equity and inclusivity effortlessly through play.
How can you build equity between team members at work?
Here’s a few things to consider:
- Lighten up! Don’t take yourself and others too seriously. If there is no laughter, there probably isn’t much creativity happening
- Look around the table and listen to those that are silent. How can you make it safe for them to speak up and engage?
- Start a meeting with a game. It can be a simple one like two truths and a lie, where everyone tries to guess the lie. The bolder, the funnier.
- Invite people to brainstorm with no judging or explaining allowed
- If your group is stuck, get unstuck with Improvisation techniques which can be as simple as “yes” … “and”
Bringing playfulness into your workday can help amplify your creativity and openness and help create an environment of trust, connection, and meaning.
Final thoughts on leveraging play to build equity:
A mentor told me once, “Take your eyes off yourself and put them on others.” This was such a powerful message because it helped me bring my authentic self into work every day.
I am a bit zany, eccentric, and like to laugh and used to feel that this was inappropriate in the “professional work environment.” Once I allowed myself to play at work, I was able to solve more complex problems with infinitely more solutions.
Bring your laughter, your creativity, and passion in all you do!
Samantha Johnson, Lead Writer and Organizational Strategist for BJD Leadership Training & Team Development. August 2020. Views my own.
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