23rd June 2022
‘If you want creative workers, give them enough time to play’.
HOM: Thinking flexibly
Too often play has been seen as the opposite to work, yet for creativity to develop, play is exactly what is required. So I very much agree with the quotation from John Cleese. And while most of us recognise the importance of play in the early years of childhood, we perhaps underestimate its continued importance for learning and personal development in later childhood and adulthood.
Brian Eno is a British musician, composer, record producer and visual artist best known for his contributions to ambient music and work in rock, pop and electronica. Eno has helped introduce unconventional conceptual and recording approaches to contemporary music and he has been described as one of popular music’s most influential and innovative figures. He is an exemplar of what it means to work creatively and he employs methods which could be considered playful.
When Microsoft was looking for the start up sound for Windows 95 it commissioned Brian Eno to come up with something unique. The brief stated that it should be ‘inspirational, sexy, driving, provocative, nostalgic, sentimental…’. There were about 150 adjectives. And then at the bottom it said, ‘and not more than 3.8 seconds long’. Eno is reported to have found the brief both hilarious and inspiring and in the end he ended up composing eighty tiny pieces of music, pushing himself to explore the myriad of possibilities. In fact the constraints of the brief proved to be the fuel to a playful creativity which as well as delivering the Microsoft start-up sound, also helped Eno break a ‘logjam’ in his own work.
Eno is also famous for his development of Oblique Strategies, a card based method for promoting creativity. Each card offers a challenging constraint intended to help artists break creative blocks by encouraging lateral thinking. And it works.
The summer holiday is a wonderful opportunity to engage with our creativity. Freed from a more rigid timetable, we have time to explore and experiment with new ideas, experiences and possibilities. This is a time for play, something we are never too old to benefit from and which will nurture our creative selves.