Learn Through Play

our blog


Playing With Problems: The Benefits of a Playful Approach to Problem Solving in the Workplace

Problems in the workplace – we’ve all got them! Whether it’s an inefficient system or an unsuccessful project, there are multiple opportunities to look at what’s not working and make improvements. Without an effective team problem solving process, teams may fail to address the root cause – or stick with “safe” solutions when innovation is needed.

While there are many effective problem solving processes to choose from, we believe that taking a Playful Approach offers unique benefits for teams that value innovation and collaboration.

What is a Playful Approach to Team Problem Solving?

There are two main features of a Playful Approach to team problem solving.

The first is a collective openness to sharing and accepting unconventional ideas. By definition, playfulness is about being lighthearted and doing things for the fun of it. Adults tend to want to look good in front of others, and this often prevents people from freely and fully participating in a divergent process.

Teams who bring a playful mindset to the brainstorming process are less likely to judge themselves and one another – and are more likely to generate divergent ideas.

The second feature of a Playful Approach is excitement and willingness to experiment. Play is all about having fun, trying new things, and seeing what happens. Mistakes and failures are just a part of the process and can even be a source of humor.

Teams who embrace playful problem solving are quicker to test out ideas, learn from mistakes, and make iterations without getting stressed about “failures.”

When to Use a Playful Approach for Effective Problem Solving

Effective problem solving requires the right approach for the right type of problem. A playful approach is most useful when problems are complex, involve multiple people, and persist where other solutions have not worked. These are also known as adaptive challenges, and they require a different approach from technical challenges. Want to know why playfulness is so valuable for solving adaptive challenges? Keep reading below!

What are the Benefits of a Playful Approach?

  1. A Playful Approach Promotes Divergent Thinking

Within a playful problem solving process, creative, unconventional ideas are accepted and encouraged. People with different perspectives and viewpoints are invited to join the conversation rather than shut out, which helps foster a more collaborative culture across the organization.

Instead of spending time assessing whether or not an idea is practical or “right,” playful teams brainstorm as many ideas as possible. This open-minded, non-judgemental approach fosters divergent thinking, which allows them to generate multiple ideas in a short period of time. When it comes to solving complex problems, the first idea might not work, so it’s valuable to have a wide array of solutions to choose from. 

  1. A Playful Approach Leads to Faster Learning

Playful teams are eager to test out ideas and see what happens. They take action without being held up by doubt or worry. If the chosen idea isn’t leading to the desired outcome, they openly discuss it, learn from their mistakes, and make another iteration.

When this mindset is embraced across the organization, it supports a culture of continuous improvement, where all employees are encouraged to share their ideas and look for iterative solutions on a consistent basis.

  1. A Playful Approach Increases Motivation to Solve Problems

With playful problem solving, it is easier to see challenges as opportunities to get creative, experiment, and collaborate as a team. This creates more positive motivation than viewing problems as roadblocks, barriers, or signs of trouble.

When problems simply become opportunities to play with solutions, people are more motivated to come together, get creative, and proactively address the issue.

How to Get Started With Playful Problem Solving

The fastest, most simple way to start experiencing the benefits of a Playful Approach to problem solving is to apply it in low-stakes situations. Perhaps your team would like to increase attendance at monthly gatherings or find a better way to arrange a disorganized dropbox. Use these low-stakes opportunities to practice brainstorming and testing ideas with play based learning. Remember to embrace openness to ideas and practice fearlessly testing solutions. After all, you’re just playing with problems!

Want to get a head start solving problems playfully? Ziksana offers a Creative Problem Solving Lab as part of our SPARK program! Find out more about how it will help to boost motivation and creativity in your team, or contact us for more information about how to book this experience.

Leave a Reply


Let's Play!

Questions about our services? Looking for a custom solution? We’d love to hear from you!

Ziksana logo






3692 Fifth Ave
San Diego, CA 92103
Schedule your free 30 minute consultation. Get started.

get in touch

A group of two women and two men stacking hands with excitement. With text bubble in left corner saying let's play.