Title: Ideas are born in fields of play: Towards a theory of play and creativity in organizational settings
Authors: Charalampos Mainemelis and Sarah Ronson
Abstract: Play is manifested in organizational behavior as a form of engagement with work tasks and as a form of diversion from them. In this paper we examine both manifestations of play as sources of creativity. We argue that when play is a form of engagement with an individual’s organizational tasks it facilitates the cognitive, affective, and motivational dimensions of the creative process, while when play is a form of diversion from an individual’s organizational tasks it fosters the peripheral social-relational dynamics that encourage creativity in the first place. We explore the personal and contextual conditions that influence the two manifestations of play and the relative balance between them in a work context. Drawing on our analysis and the extant creativity literature, we conceptualize play as the cradle of creativity in organizations. We suggest that by temporarily suspending ordinary conventions, structural obligations, and functional pressures, and by encouraging behaviors whose value may not be immediately evident, play stimulates, facilitates, and even rehearses creativity. We discuss the practical relevance of play for the nature of work in creative industries and its larger intellectual importance for the study of human behavior in social systems.