Enhancing creativity and innovation in organisational life

By Jaap Boonstra & Francisco Loscos

A playful attitude helps people adapt to rapidly changing circumstances by finding creative solutions to problems that arise. Playful behaviour can generate radically new ideas and those new ideas can lead to new forms of behaviour by which we approach the world.


Creativity is about developing ideas and creating new views and behaviours that can be applied in new situations. Creative people are original thinkers. They have many ideas, can quickly change mindsets and come up with new combinations. It is interesting that great thinkers, scientists, designers and artists often regard their work as play and take a curious and playful attitude in everything they do.

Creative people are not prisoners of habits or what should and should not. They can play with changing habits and introduce new ways in which we work and live together.

Work creativity
Creative people are not prisoners of habits (Photo: Viktoryia Vinnikava/Twenty20)

Groups are often more creative than individuals because more ideas arise in groups and those ideas are combined. The most creative groups consist of people with different backgrounds and a diversity of knowledge, experience and skills. They give each other space, every idea is valuable, there is no competition and there is a great willingness to play together. Diversity in a team increases the chance of refreshing and useful ideas [1].

Creative people are not necessarily innovative because often they do not come up with a practical translation of their ideas. Innovative people usually rely on the ideas of creative people and translate them into practical applications.

The majority of successful innovations are achieved without the explicit goal of cashing in on them


Innovation starts with curiosity about how something works. Curious people are interested in new concepts and experiences, and try to avoid boredom. By playing, they try out new ideas and learn what works and what does not.

Innovation is about realising a new idea with a practical value that is embraced by others. Converting new ideas into successful innovation often requires tremendous effort. Innovative people are analytical, persistent and resilient. They take a positive attitude and are willing to play collaboratively [2]. The majority of successful innovations are achieved without the explicit goal of cashing in on them.

Innovation is the foundation of successful enterprises by developing new techniques, products, services and finding solutions to problems. Innovations change our world, the way we work and how we interact.

Innovation ideas
Innovative people usually rely on the ideas of creative people (Photo: Craig Harvey/Twenty20)

Collaborative play

Rules in organisations are indispensable to deliver quality and to maintain a certain level of stability. When existing rules and ingrained play patterns lead to stagnation, it is necessary to question these rules and change them. Changing the unwritten rules of the game is necessary to be able to respond to unexpected events and to create room for innovation.

Collaborative play often starts with curiosity about what is going to happen. There is a sense of the unknown and excitement about the possibilities that the play offers and the space that is created for new ideas and perspectives. In the actual play people enjoy the movement that develops.

Innovative people are analytical, persistent and resilient

Play experiences contribute to knowledge, understanding and skills. Shared experiences provide understanding of the working methods and culture that we have created together. This provides awareness of the power to change and the way in which we can bring about innovative changes together [3].

Dealing with the unexpected

In change as collaborative play, everyone can be creative or innovative, and play a role. The players enjoy the challenging situations in which they can develop themselves together with others. People enjoy playing when they can influence their own lives and well-being.

A playing attitude calls for the creativity of players who challenge each other and develop scenarios without a clear beginning or end. They embark on the adventure in the space they create together. Change as collaborative play means that players deal with unexpected events and unpredictable moments and that they create opportunities to develop themselves and enjoy it [4].


  1. Bateson, P. & P. Martin (2013). Play, Playfulness, creativity and innovation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  2. Hardagon, A. & R.I. Sutton (2000). Building an innovation factory. Harvard Business Review, 78, 157-166
  3. Eberle, S. (2014). The elements of play. Towards a philosophy and a definition of play. American Journal of Play, 6, (2), 214-233
  4. Boonstra, J.J. (2018). Change as collaborative play. A positive view on changing and innovating organisations. Amsterdam: Boom | Management Impact
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