I recently guestblogged for the award-winning elearning folk at Nelson Croom, on the Serious Business of Games. The post was linked to my Nelson Croom course on innovation and promoted the benefits of using games to spark creativity in the workplace. I’d like to take all the credit for the idea, but really it’s all thanks to ex-Eurythmic Dave Stewart. Because when fellow publisher Liz Gooster gave me a copy of his The Business Playground book last year, I was totally converted. Here’s what I said about the book on Amazon:

“Before we get to the fun, don’t be misled. This book has a serious message and one that everyone in business in the current climate should pay heed to. The authors – one half of the Eurythmics plus a brandman who’s worked with everyone from Coca-Cola to Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection – are on a mission to reignite creativity in the workplace. Kids, they say, are instinctively creative. But not only do we lose this skill as we grow up, organisations often obstruct creative behaviour. So, over twelve chapters, they share enough examples, tools, inspiration and insights to enable even the most process-driven employee to get creative.

Now to the games. From the contents list laid out like a board game (“try rolling a dice to tell you which chapter to read next”) to the brightly coloured pages that look like someone has read the book before you and highlighted all the useful bits, this is a joy to read. Unlike other cringeworthy attempts at humour in business books, the playful computer-game-like characters and deadpan jokes work. But the real value in all this ‘fun’ is in the board games at the end of each chapter. Want to come up with as many ideas a possible? Throw some prompter topics into a bowl, connect them each to a fork with a piece of string, mix them up and play idea spaghetti: pick a fork, follow the tangle to the prompter and see how many ideas you come up with in the next five minutes. The player with the most ideas after four rounds wins. Stuck for inspiration on a big problem? Spin a pencil round the wheel of distraction and follow the instructions. You might be told to go for a walk, do a crossword puzzle or have a vodka martini. As the authors say, even if the distracting activity doesn’t send you straight to the lightbulb moment, at least you’ll have had a good time.

These games might sound trivial, but anyone who has sat through corporate brainstorming sessions and the like, will appreciate how formal ‘creativity’ sessions often kill the buzz from the start. The authors know this – and provide real insights into how things work in practice. My favourite game – about getting others on board with your ideas – includes a ‘death by committee’ square where your idea is shouted down and you must respond with the phrase “I’m so glad you brought that up”, while smiling continually. Fail at this and you slide back to the beginning of the game.”

If you want to boost creativity in your organisation, give The Business Playground a spin. The games will immediately put you and your team in the mood for idea generation, problem-solving and off the wall thinking. And the insights into how things really work in organisations will make you realise you’re not the only one battling against corporate malaise.”

Now over to Dave and Mark for a whistle-stop tour through the key messages of the book:

So, if you’re desperate for an effective new year business resolution, why not make 2011 the year of playfulness?