Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School. Every Tuesday at 7:00 PM EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community and the private self (mind, body and spirit).
On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Andy Stefanovich, provocateur and leading thinker and doer in the field of creativity and innovation at work. The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.
Stew Friedman: In 1990 you founded a company called Play, which was such an innovative, original concept, to think of play at work, because we typically think of work and play as a dichotomy. Why does being playful and creative matter in all parts of our lives – even at work?
Andy Stefanovich: Work should be more like play, not playful. Serious, strategic, provocative, thoughtful, innovative, creative, spirited. Those were the things I wanted to affirm. I wanted to bring this important philosophy to executives to unleash imagination, and change organizations.
Watching my father work for GM for 48 years, with no college, but a strong work ethic. He worked for a living and he was rewarded. But he wished the spirit of people were more alive. He wished we could be more authentic without it being looked down upon on. Mylife and career is taking that legacy and bringing it to life, asking questions.
How we can change the mood, ethos, culture? It’s like the weather, creating a mood of innovation and truth. What mental preparedness can we build to face confusion with tolerance? How long can you stay in a place of grey? How do you build a mindset that is founded on consciousness and awareness? What mechanisms do you have that are levers, tools, technology, and strategy to drive change? How are you measuring what matters?
SF: How do you tap into the wellspring of energy and power from playing. Where do you start?
AS: A good journal. Write about what empowers you.
SF: You write by hand?
AS: I imagine, I dream, I believe. Write the way a TED talk is constructed. Imagine walking on the stage, I believe deeply in _____. Passion persuades. Let everyone know who you are. Be a one trick pony. It’s a profound way to capture the imagination of people. I believe it’s important now for these three or four reasons.
SF: So, you need to focus on “here’s what I believe” and “here’s why it’s important now.”
AS: And invite the world to participate. Have an open aperture. Work should not be work, it should be play.
SF: So how to open that aperture?
AS: Figure out your strong belief, your strong view. Let those in your circle know. Create a consortium of believers
SF: Off broadway, on the road.
AS: Yes, test it with your close-in community. Condition the room, say, “this may be off the wall, but I believe that ____. “ People like intuition vs. intellectual.
SF: How is this playful?
AS: It meets the room where it needs to be. Now it’s too organized, too constructed, too perfect. Ceremonial, like a Greek Orthodox script. Ritual is half script and half chance. Give people more permission, more honesty, more truth.
SF: How do you find creativity, innovation, and change in work and life?
AS: From a curatorial standpoint. Editing the excellence of the world and putting it before others. The High Line in NYC is a good example. There are three words to guide all of it: slow, wild and quiet. Not manicured landscaping. Slow steps. What are the three words that will steward you?
SF: And mood, as you referred to earlier?
AS: It’s a way to access more of your creativity, play, innovation. Make people know that these are the three things that guide me. What are yours? Then use each other for implied expertise.
SF: What have you learned about how can a person live a more inspired life?
AS: A truthful existence. Not waking up and behaving parts. You taught me about family, community, being whole. Not whimsy, but creative center, comfortable, controlled, thoughtful, intentional. Awareness level unleashes. More truthful. People want it. There’s too much inauthenticity. People are starving for it.
Andy Stefanovich, author of best-selling Look at More: A Proven Approach to Innovation.