A Strategy Of Playfulness
Playfulness is a deliberate, temporary relaxation of rules in order to explore the possibilities of alternative rules. James March
One of my favorite decision making strategies by one of my favorite authors is “The Technology of Foolishness” by James March. He recommended that we supplement the technology of reason with the technology of foolishness, which he called sensible foolishness. Individuals and organizations need ways of doing things for which they have no good reason. Not always. Not usually. But sometimes.
We know now that it is not possible for humans to always be totally rational in decision making. So if we can’t always be rational then we need some strategies for being something else. I like the technology of foolishness as one possibility because it is a strategy of playfulness. Playfulness is childlike behavior. And I have been promoting childlike, creative, imaginative decision making behavior since 1989. Creativity and intuition were not part of the accepted theory of decision making at the time.
Normal standard theories of intelligent choice suggest reason and purpose should come before action. But sometimes individuals don’t have a good reason or a well established purpose for a particular choice. Intuition is defined as: the act or faculty of knowing or sensing without the use of rational processes. Creative is defined as: characterized as by originality and expressiveness; imaginative. To overcome the technology of reason we need to be able to employ playfulness, intuition and creativity. Playfulness, intuition and creativity allows experimentation, not to be constrained by consistency, logic, purpose and reason. Not usually; but sometimes.
March says we have two kinds of theories of choice behavior: the theory of children and the theory of adults. In the theory of childhood we tell children to try things they are not interested in because it might develop their scope and help them become a more interesting person. “Try it, you might like it.” In the theory of adulthood, we emphasize that choices are a result of preconceived goals and intentions. Adults have constructed a model world in which adults know what is good for themselves but children do not.The asymmetry of these two models is conspicuous. March says we should adopt the theory of childhood.
My Process of Illumination and blogs have been supportive of a childhood theory and The Technology of Foolishness. At the same time, not ignoring the technology of reason. Here is a brief sampling of my “playful strategies”:
Be focused and flexible; Become as capable of change as the environment;
Learn to plan and plan to learn; Think without the box;
Keep you eye on what you cannot see;
Be rational unless there is a good reason not to be;
Treat intuition as the other intelligence.
So, try to act like a child, you might like it. Or consider this playful advice from Mae West: Whenever I have a choice between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried before.