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Abstract

Most managers see strategy development as serious business. It is ironic, then, that some of the most remarkable strategic breakthroughs in organizations emerge not from well-ordered processes but from messy, ambiguous and sometimes irrational activities - pursuits that can best be described as play. Referring to research in the fields of developmental psychology and anthropology, the authors argue that play can stimulate the development of cognitive, interpretive skills and engender an emotional sense of fulfillment. It can help establish a safe environment for introducing new ideas about market opportunities, generating debate about important strategic issues, challenging old assumptions and building a sense of common purpose. The authors draw on their own experiences working with managers at the Imagination Lab Foundation and Templeton College, Oxford University, and they make sure to point out that play is no substitute for rational, conventional strategy development. Indeed, after the creative sessions are over, plenty of hard work remains to translate the ideas and insights into processes and actions. However, the authors argue that organizations seeking to differentiate themselves from competitors and overcome strategic obstacles can benefit by making time for managers to interact creatively with follow-up on the insights that emerge.
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... A prominent example that englobes both the concepts of paradox and practice is serious play. Serious play is a term used to depict the act of deliberately accomplishing important tasks through fun and playful conducts (Beech et al., 2004), where play according to Heracleous, 2005, is the pursuit of uncertain, senseless and often irrational activities and provides a risk free environment to test, experiment and innovate (Loizos Heracleous, 2005 Serious play use is more prominent in strategy development rather in other organizational contexts due to the constant need for a better strategy for businesses to flourish in the constantly changing business environment (Roos & Victor, 1999;Roos, Victor, & Statler, 2004). ...
... A prominent example that englobes both the concepts of paradox and practice is serious play. Serious play is a term used to depict the act of deliberately accomplishing important tasks through fun and playful conducts (Beech et al., 2004), where play according to Heracleous, 2005, is the pursuit of uncertain, senseless and often irrational activities and provides a risk free environment to test, experiment and innovate (Loizos Heracleous, 2005 Serious play use is more prominent in strategy development rather in other organizational contexts due to the constant need for a better strategy for businesses to flourish in the constantly changing business environment (Roos & Victor, 1999;Roos, Victor, & Statler, 2004). ...
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... Building on insights of the interpretive approach to discourse, as well as on insights from a variety of other disciplines such as organization development and change management, researchers in the functional tradition have focused on how language can be applied to the facilitation of managerially relevant processes and outcomes such as the exercise of leadership (Pondy, 1978;Schein, 1992;Westley and Mintzberg, 1989), the emergence of effective and creative strategies (Heracleous and Jacobs, 2005;Liedtka and Rosenblum, 1996) and the management of organizational change (Barrett, Thomas and Hocevar, 1995;Ford and Ford, 1995;Westley and Vredenburg, 1996). Ford and Ford (1995) for example, arguing that intentional change is based in and driven by particular types of linguistic communication, drew on speech act theory (Austin, 1961) to analyze the change process and its breakdown as a dynamic of conversations. ...
... It is present in all organisations, and it seems that the role and prevalence of playfulness and humour in organisational activities and in society is on the rise. For example, enjoying work and having fun are examples of attributes that the younger generations especially appreciate in their jobs (Heracleous and Jacobs, 2005;Levine, 2005;Romero and Pescosolido, 2008). This current societal change is also reflected in innovative activities, where creativity and fun are often associated together. ...
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