Seriousness vs Playfulness

November 10, 2022
What is the connection between playfulness and good engineering?

I recently read Finite and Infinite Games by James Carse. The book defines finite games as those games where the objective is to end the game, by winning, and infinite games as those where the objective is to prevent the game from ending.

In exploring the concept of infinite games, it makes the point that infinite players are “playful”. Playfulness, the book points out, is the opposite of seriousness.

Where seriousness limits options (i.e. what words or behaviors are “appropriate”), playfulness seeks to explore and invent options.

This got me thinking about the implications for work such as creative problem solving.

If a key objective of engineering work is to invent novel solutions to new problems, how might a “serious” work culture inhibit us in this endeavour?

What has been your experience? Have you worked in “serious” places and more “playful” places? How did this affect the engineering culture, and problem solving?

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