During the Fourth of July weekend, my family and another family went fishing in Rockport, Texas. It was so HOT that we decided to spend our days at the beach or the movie house and our nights fishing on the pier.
We had two grandparents, three parents, an aunt, a fiancé and three kids (two boys ages five, ten and a sixteen year old girl) in tow to the pier. The boys play well together – except when the younger one gets a bit tired. When that time came, I opened my big mouth and offered to tell them a story. How many times have you offered up something in your business and realized what you had said after the words left you mouth? Well, there I was… It was time to perform.
Both boys got as close to me as they possibly could get. And, under the fluorescent light on the Copono Bay Pier I told story after story after story. The ocean breeze and the sound of the waves made a great backdrop for my extemporaneous (totally made up BS that I literally pulled out of thin air) story hour.
For a brief moment I suddenly became afraid of my audience. Four eyes peered up at me with great expectations about what I was going to say. So I began…. “Arlen of the Forest”…. The hero of the story was a little boy who was able to speak with the plants and animals of the forest. His super power was that he could get those plants and animals to do anything necessary when evil forces were in play.
I will spare you the full detail of each story (although they were pretty good if I do say so myself). Midway through the first story I thought to myself, “How could I possibly tell a story that would be interesting enough to keep their attention? Would they be so bored that they would walk away in mid-sentence?” As I warmed up with Arlen of the Forest, I realized that my imagination was fully available to me and that each story was a blank canvas. Then it became a fun game to see how many wonderful life lessons I could weave into these crazy stories of adventure and intrigue. Instead of trying so hard to impress the kids, I let the stories flow.
The more I got into the groove, the stories seemed to flow from me with each one better than the last. Franklin the Flashlight made children feel safe in the dark. He came to life just before bedtime to keep the children entertained with light shows and shapes on the ceiling until they fell asleep. Twin brothers Tickle and Pickle discovered on a family vacation that they could speak and live underwater and how important our oceans and marine life are. Tommy the Surfing Lion and Bimber the Jumping Jellyfish came from two different worlds but became great friends as they learned to play off of each others strengths realizing they were stronger together than alone. And lastly there was Mr. Fuffernuffin the Baking Rooster – I can’t remember him as I was exhausted at this point.
But the kids LOVED it! They laughed and asked for more. The older of the two even went and shared the stories with his mom and sister.
I have noticed with my clients that when we have the courage to share the most outrageous solutions, craziest suggestions and tap into our creativity and let our imaginations flow miraculous things begin to happen. Although business is a serious game, there are real benefits to being more playful or childlike when it comes to visioning, planning, problem solving and marketing. Offering up wild answers to the question, “What If?”, is a wonderful way to brainstorm.
My dear friend and colleague Dianna Amorde of Inspired Leap Consulting frequently writes about the importance of using our “wise mind” versus the traditional left brain thinking. In her book Aha! Moments – When Intellect & Intution Collide she explains that the wise mind is the combined use of left brain or more analytical/logical thought, combined with the more intuitive/creative qualities of the right brained. She says that by playing more, we open ourselves up to more inspired action and highly productive thinking/action.
Imagination, playfulness and creativity are NOT traditional business words – (unless you work for a toy company or an ad agency), but they should be. A very wise client helped me discover the importance of fun in business. In our first meeting he said that he wanted me to help him figure out how to make working in his engineering firm more fun. Through working with him, I discovered that laughter is a great barrier breaker and team builder. Ultimately we agreed to a one-day company strategic planning meeting. The first half of the day was devoted to learning and team building through play and the second half to planning. Several people commented that they couldn’t remember when they laughed so much. Our laughter and freedom to be creative and imaginative gave way to exceptional planning and goal setting that would otherwise been impossible had we not engaged both sides of our brain. The results for this company were profound. They experienced more profit and better morale instantly.
What wonderful story would you like to create for your business?