creativity and playfulness

Today, I have for you a little thought experiment for you to play with. Eine Kleine Gedanken experiment, one might say, were one of the Germanic persuasion. It’s about creativity and playfulness.

In an article I called “Playfulness vs. Creativity,” I played with the idea that creativity and playfulness might be different words for the same thing. I took one of Csikszentmihalyi’s brilliant explorations of creativity and had the temerity, the nerve, even, to perform an unauthorized search and replace upon it – searching all occurrences of “creativity” and related words, and replacing them with “playfulness.” Here’s what I came up with. Take a minute. Click that link. Spend a couple minutes with it. Then read on. It’ll get more fun, I promise.

Here’s the Gedanken:

Suppose that there were no word for creativity.

Suppose, instead, whenever we wanted to describe a creative person or talent, we used the word “playful.”

Suppose that companies who were seeking out creative individuals were to look, instead, for playful people; that courses designed to nurture creativity were instead focused on playfulness; that artists, inventors, innovators we consider the captains of creativity, become known as the paragons of playfulness – what would change?

Just about everything – everything except the gifts these playful people had to offer. Education would change. Designers, artists, innovators would go to nursery schools and kindergartens to get their graduate degrees. The genius of students at places like MIT and Stanford would be turned towards the development of playgrounds that embraced all the arts and all the sciences and everyone – children, adults, the aged – who wanted to play. Paragons of playfulness would recognized, challenged, honored, funded. We would have the Nobel Prize for Playfulness. And you, just because you’re silly enough to think about things like this, would be a candidate.


  1. miss natalie marie on December 27, 2012 at 7:57 am

    Terrific! I love this. Part of my own journey to reopening my creative playground has been to stop calling it that :) I think that the creative urge is as inherent to a playful person as the urge to enjoy or laugh. I had a bunch of associations about what creativity looked like, and didn’t, and that took me out of the inevitable landslide of wide open creatin’ that true play will whush you towards. In fact, when I’ve been playing for a while, if I don’t find some way of playing at creating I go nutz. Too much energy that wants a release and a calming in the play of creation. Recently, I’ve found my way again to playing in a specific way of arting, but my journey to clearing my creative playground has helped me to acknowledge and relax and play more fully in all the areas of my life where I am having fun in creation, like dreaming my own life forward when I hit problems, or brainstorming with people who can’t see the next (that’s one of my favorites!) or scheming up meals out of random ingredients, designing games, creating workshops, crafting poems and leaving them on random strangers cars..(.oh… I like creating lists too :) )
    I also love to create environments where play thrives…play of all sorts. That’s a very decadent creating because it supports my own creating…

  2. Lori on December 28, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    A Nobel Prize for Playfulness is an outstanding idea. No! Even better, a DeKoven Prize for Playfulness! And the trophy could be a miniature ping pong table! yes!

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