Thursday, February 11, 2010

Why You Should Be Pretending And Pipe Dreaming.

"You can learn more about a person in an hour of play than you can from a lifetime of conversation"
I stress people out a lot with my goals. Maybe its because my goals range from Nepalese temple wandering to an Inc. Magazine cover, to somehow making an entire cake out of Skittles.  Maybe it's because I'm an Aquarius and that sign is the equivalent of a mad scientist.  Maybe not though, I know plenty of entrepreneurs of all signs that have crazy ideas. 
Until recently, the New Jersey-ite thought that I wanted to move to Charlotte next month followed by a sabbatical in Spain.  He was stressed out about it for weeks without telling me because he has a job that would probably not enjoy one of their few employees calling in from Spain every day.  He also told me he wasn't sure how we'd afford something like that since I spent most of my money opening a business this year.  I was really surprised when he told me he was worried about it since I was only planning and not doing.  I like to be prepared should I suddenly have 6 months that I don't know what to do with. 
Pretending used to be something I kept to myself - like it was maybe some part of my 6 year old self that never went away like a skin tag or birthmark.  Well beyond the days when it's appropriate for adults to openly be discussing "playing and games" I was still "playing" and I didn't see how that was going to fit in at any kind of business setting.   I drove several of my bosses crazy because try as I might to seem focused on only the task at hand it leaked out.  I had post-its everywhere with things written on them like "Inc. Mag. - shall I wear a crown?"  and "location independence means flexibility for employees to pursue their goals", and "Yes, let's replace the existing normal!". 
On a more embarrassing note (yes, let's go there) I still want a tutu or some sort of poufy dress for prancing around in regardless of the fact that I am rapidly approaching 30.

But don't worry fellow head-in-the-clouds-ers I'm prepared to defend this type of behavior in the workplace. 
Exhibit 1:  Legos.  Legos has built a Serious Play section for businesses. Notice that it's gray and boring BUT it's about playing.  They believe that by playing together employees will be better able to express themselves and will inevitably access deeper and more complex thought processes and solutions.
Exhibit 2: Google.  We all know about playing at work.  Pretending at work is different than play.  It's not playing a game of ping pong or skateboarding on the company ramp.  Pretending is closely related to planning and planning is good for companies.  Google has themed rooms all over their buildings to promote pretending, daydreaming, and planning. 
Exhibit 3: Pretending helps you achieve.  Oxford Journal did a study where they determined that people that could pretend that an object was something else (like a flat rock is actually a plate) were good at communicative narrative - which means that they can imagine that something is different than it is.  If you can visualize yourself being successful at building a Skittle cake, then chances are much higher it will actually occur.  This isn't terribly new, psychologists and hypnotists use visualization techniques all the time.
Exhibit 4: Pretending isn't as ridiculous as it seems.  This is the thing that I think helps me the most and the one that people usually blast me for.  Before you comment that I'm being an escapist, think about what some people in different fields must pretend about. 
A Mr. Peanut employee must have pretended at some point that one of their peanuts was in fact a little man.
Fashion shows would not be produced were it not for legions of 30 year olds (and older) wanting tutus.
How many times as a weather reporter must Oprah have  been pretending to interview the world's celebrities? 


Blogger Grace Boyle said...

Caitlin, this is such a good post. You tie together the dreamers and pretenders (I'm a Pisces, oh head in the clouds) so I totally get it. I love the research you've included, too. Bookmarking and reading over and over :)

February 11, 2010 at 9:21 AM  
Blogger Royce said...

KGB aka Shotgun aka Grace, I'm a Pisces too! *high five* Your birthday must be coming up too, eh?

C-Mac was this a very long post to justify your daydreaming? Haha I like this actually, the Google one is my favorite... I mean here is a company that actually thinks the pretending and play is actually integral to the work they do. It's not something grafted onto their business model, but actually at the core of their innovation. Very interesting to think about.

It got me thinking - in what ways could a company that has very specific things it has to achieve in very specific parameters do more to integrate pretending on the part of its employees? I'll get back to you if inspiration strikes.

February 11, 2010 at 5:10 PM  
Blogger Caitlin said...

Grace - Thanks, Pisces are definitely in the dreamer category :)

Royce - yes, it was a long post justifying my daydreaming - :)
I do think companies should value their dreamers on staff though. Without a little pretend, how do radically innovative products become a reality?
I think a lot of businesses stick so hard to the task at hand that their forward motion is somewhat slowed down.

Let me know if you think of any good ideas for smaller companies to incorporate. I was thinking that maybe a quarterly day off campus doing something more imaginative would be appropriate?

February 12, 2010 at 7:48 AM  
Blogger Chelsea Talks Smack said...

an entire cake of skittles??....can I help?

I really loved this post and could relate to it completely. I'm a dreamer and I too stress people out. people can never keep up with my "unrealistic goals"

February 12, 2010 at 12:09 PM  

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