It’s Time to Go Out and Play

The Recess Test – How Playful is Your Organization?


  • Is it common to hear laughter coming from your employees?
  • Does the laughter stop or diminish when management is around?
  • Is the workplace humor good-natured constructive ribbing rather than destructive sarcastic criticism?
  • Does your boss usually have an optimistic and happy attitude?
  • When something gets screwed up, can team members step back and laugh at their own mistake?
  • Do you have fun celebrations on a regular basis?
  • Is the physical workplace conducive to fun?
  • Do you engage your customers (internal or external) in your fun environment?

If you answered “no” to two or more of these questions, your organization may be suffering from terminal “sobriety flippancy” (abstinence from humor).

At least that’s the point authors Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson make in their book Innovate the Pixar Way. In the book, Capodagli and Jackson reveal how Pixar has reawakened the innovative spirit at Walt Disney. In stark contrast to the crippling short-term mentality that eats away at many organizations today, the Pixar organization honors the legacy of Walt Disney by refusing to take shortcuts, by fulfilling the promise of bringing the story to life in each and every movie they make, and by championing a simple formula espoused by the chief creative officer of Pixar and  Disney Animation Studios, John Lasseter: “Quality is the best business plan of all.”

Throughout the book, the authors encourage you to think like a child. They have shown Pixar to be a “playground” that will inspire you to:

  • Dream like a child.
  • Believe in your playmates
  • Dare to jump in the water and make waves
  • Do unleash your childhood potential

Do you have the capacity to do that? If not, here are seven actions the authors recommend you take to fire up your workplace:

  1. Create a unique playground – Pixar’s main building is designed for natural interaction of all team members and includes the freedom to decorate your own space; if you want to be innovative, make your workspace a home-away-from-home.
  2. Think play – each month, assign a “recess team” to dream up a fun experience.
  3. Allow personalized work space – encourage employees to demonstrate their creativity by decorating their individual offices, cubicles, desks, or work areas.
  4. Celebrate – make time for celebrations to note life’s milestones: a birthday, an anniversary, a graduation.
  5. Grant employees permission to be recognized for their work by “outsiders” – encourage employees to join professional associations in which they have an opportunity to display their work, gain peer and industry recognition for their accomplishments, and most of all, have fun.
  6. Be a role model for mutual respect and trust – the level of mutual respect and trust in your workplace is directly proportional to worker’s attitudes regarding play and fun.
  7. Laugh at yourself – leaders who demonstrate self-deprecating humor set the tone for workplace play and fun.

Fun and play are imperative to strengthening one’s imagination, creative abilities, and most of all, innovative thinking.

Isn’t it time to ring the bell for recess at your place?


Inspired by Innovate the Pixar Way, by  Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson




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