When I was a kid two of my favorite toys were Play-Doh and Lite Brite. I grew up quite poor, so getting these “top shelf” toys was a real treat for me. I would create monsters, houses, airplanes, and a host of other things that a little boy thinks is cool. What I created didn’t really matter. The exciting part for me was that I had the opportunity to explore my imagination.

The ideas I came up with were truly interesting and, more importantly, fun. While they didn’t have any practical application, I felt freedom in that moment. I began to think about the impact it would have on an organization if every employee could feel that sense of creative freedom and fun in their role. The ideas and solutions to organizational challenges that could be developed from that place of creative freedom could be absolutely revolutionary.

I worked with an organization which all but had a stand where team members could grab the equivalent of Play-Doh and Lite Brite off the shelf carte blanche.  They didn’t just shove solutions and processes in the faces of the team members. They shared freely the challenges the organization was facing and then listened to the ideas of their people. It was as close to business nirvana as one can get!

What can you do in your organization to give your team some Play-Doh or a Lite Brite? What creative license are you giving them to source solutions? Are they even aware of the challenges that need support? Take some time to pencil in “creative time” on your calendar. As a leader you need to have time to step away from the “day to day” and just dream and imagine like a little kid. Maybe go and buy a canister of Play-Doh and sit it on the corner of your desk as a reminder.

What are some “toys” you or your organization has handed out to the team to foster creativity and innovation?

  • Great and timely post, William! Creativity is so important. Crayons and sketchpads were good to hand out. I kept a slinky and a “magic eight ball” at my desk. When decisions needed to be made, we started with the magic eight ball and it helped spur our creativity:) I also had a client who was working on process improvement in their production environment. Our team was “stuck” coming up with ideas, so we took a field trip to Staples. Many of us in the group used to enjoy shopping for school supplies, so we thought this would trigger some creative solutions. It worked!

    Nice post and an excellent reminder for us.


  • Crayons and sketchpads…love it! Thanks so much for sharing such a relevant story. It’s amazing how simple and effective this can be. It’s been heaps more effective (and less expensive) than bonus programs and other monetary schemes. Hope you’re doing well Chrissann and thanks again for your contribution.