Alchemical Thoughts

Tim Brown of IDEO on creativity: some ideas I found intriguing

Posted on: May 7, 2010

Tim Brown, of IDEO, TED Talk

The above video is part of the TED series of talks. I took some time this morning to finally listen to it; I had it clipped in my feed reader for a while. I found a couple of his ideas intriguing, and I found myself wondering how some of this is applicable to librarianship. Now, I am sure a lot of the twopointopians (to borrow the terms from The Annoyed Librarian) would be all over this, so to speak. But I am not talking about just playing for the sake of playing which seems what they often embrace (at times at the detriment of other important library services, but that is a whole other conversation). However, play and creativity should have a role in the work that we do. In fact, it is something I have pondered at some point.

So, these are some of the points Mr. Brown made I found interesting:

  • The idea of starting a company where the employees are friends. This is not an easy thing to do. Even in a small library environment, i.e. one with few workers, it is not always the case that they are friends. Heck, they are barely colleagues in some cases. Now, Brown says that you would want a company where the employees are friends because friendship is a short cut to play. This is because an environment where there is friendship can be one that provides a sense of safety and trust, and with those, then there is security to play and take risks.
  • Playfulness helps us get to better solutions.
  • Brown made a remark about first graders being able to do construction play (build things in class with blocks, etc.). I am not sure how accurate that is anymore given the awful testing climate schools have these days. It seems like play keeps getting removed from schools at earlier stages. And don't even get me started on the schools that minimize or eliminate recess. As the kids get older, the schools take away the things that are useful for constructing and creative play. Librarians barely keep a sense of play, and it seems that when they do, it is not exactly the most effective or constructive.
  • Building quick prototypes gets material faster to clients/patrons. Role play comes into play as well, say for dealing with services.
  • Play is not anarchy; it is that idea where I have issue then with some of my professional brethren, who think that pretty much anything goes for the sake of play. And yes, you should be able to play and experiment. But play does have some rules; watch kids playing: they often follow certain scripts even at their most creative. This is specially applicable in group play. The negotiation of the play rules is what leads to productive play in a group context. 
  • There are also rules of when to play. We transition (or need to learn to do so) in and out of play.
  • "You can be a serious, professional adult, and, at times, be playful." Cool quote. And I like that he used the word professional given how the latest trend in librarianship seems to be questioning or putting down the idea that librarians are professionals (like this guy; but again, that is another conversation). 

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