Cultivating a Willingness to Play

August 7, 2023

Photo by Mia Anderson on Unsplash

Using play to unleash new ways of thinking

Dear collaborative discussion friends,

This week we are highlighting a fun activity that helps participants suspend their seriousness and analytical thinking. Participants are encouraged to play with ideas, using their creativity and imagination to develop solutions and persuade others to support the changes needed to address sticky problems. This activity demonstrates how play can help uncover new perspectives and ideas.

This activity is contributed by Lori Britt, Professor at the School of Communication & ICAD Co-Director at James Madison University, and is one of the many activities in the Creative Collaboration Module.

If you missed the previous newsletter, Seeking Innovation, you can access it and our other weekly newsletters by subscribing below.


This week’s activity:

Activity 2.5 – Cultivating a Willingness to Play

Using the power of play to practice different ways of thinking and develop new ideas

This activity introduces participants to a familiar method for selling an idea or product often seen in advertising. Participants then develop pitches for solutions to address a particular issue and present these pitches to the whole group. Participants are encouraged to have fun and be silly while developing their pitches, helping them gain a deeper understanding of how play can be used to energize a group and explore new avenues for solving a particular problem.

Activity 2.5 – Cultivating a Willingness to Play

Select a Topic

Begin this activity by selecting an issue that is important to your discussion group, something they are passionate about. This could be a civic issue where they see the need for change. As preparation for this activity, consider Activity 5.1 Identifying Your Civic Passion.

Introduce Monroe’s Motivated Sequence

Next, introduce participants to Monroe’s Motivated Sequence, a common recipe for persuasive pitches that is often used in ads or infomercials. Provide participants with the following description of the five steps in this sequence:

  • Grab audience’s attention
  • Present the need – Discuss the current situation and why something needs to be done, while appealing to emotions
  • Offer a product/solution that addresses the need
  • Describe how the world will look if this product or solution is implemented and help the audience visualize
  • Call to Action – Ask them to buy or support the product/solution and why they must do it now

Tip: To help participants, provide an example of this sequence by showing them a silly or playful commercial, such as the Old Spice ads with the man on the horse.

Break into Small Groups and Develop Pitches

Invite participants to break into small groups (4-6 ppl). Ask participants to quickly develop a product or idea that solves the selected problem and come up with a creative, catchy name for this solution. Then, ask them to create a 2-minute pitch in the form of an ad or infomercial using the structure of Monroe’s Motivated Sequence with the goal of persuading others to support the proposed solution. Remind participants that their pitches do not need to be serious. They should have fun with this and stretch their imagination to think of something original, unique, funny and/or silly. Explain to them that they will each be playing a part in the commercials they create.

Present Pitches to the Full Group

Invite each small group to perform their pitches for the whole group. To make it more fun, the full group can vote on the top pitch.

Debrief as a Full Group

Discuss the following questions:

  • What did it feel like to do this so quickly? Did you feel like you were free to be playful or silly? Did the format of creating a commercial or infomercial allow you to be less serious?
  • How difficult was it to come up with an idea originally?
  • Once you had your idea, how easy or difficult was it to develop a pitch to persuade others to buy or support your idea?

In addition to these debriefing questions, the full description of Activity 2.5 Cultivating a Willingness to Play includes reflection questions and a practice journal prompt to help participants dive deeper.

If you try out this activity, please share with us what you think:

Rate Activity 2.5

We hope this toolkit activity helps participants engage their playful side to explore topics from a fresh perspective, energize the group and unleash the power of creativity and imagination in developing solutions to complex issues.

Upcoming Events

  • Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago is organizing Guanacaste 2023: The Transformational Listening Conference, from October 5 to October 7, 2023. We are excited to share that Dr. John G. Igwebuike, the founder of Guanacaste: The Lead Listening Institute, and one of our Collaborative Discussion Coaches, will be incorporating part of the Collaborative Discussion Toolkit in the conference this year. All are welcome! Learn more and register here.
  • The National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation 2023 will take place from October 13-15 in Atlanta, Georgia. The Interactivity Foundation, including the Collaborative Discussion Project, will be holding sessions during this event and we look forward to seeing you there. The cost to register is $580, with a discounted rate of $300 for students. All are welcome! Learn more and register here.
  • We are now accepting applications for our Collaborative Discussion Coach Training NCDD Pre-Conference Workshop. Space will be limited. It will take place on October 12th, 9 am – 3 pm at the conference hotel (lunch will be provided). Learn more here. Apply here or share this link with those who might be interested.
  • We are now accepting applications for our Pilot Coach Training for Undergraduate Students which will take place this fall. Space will be limited. The dates for this training have been updated. It will now begin on September 26, 2023. Visit our website to learn more and view the complete list of dates and times, which are also shown on the application. The application deadline has also been extended to September 10, 2023. All undergraduate students who are interested can apply here or you can share this link with students who might be interested.

Looking forward to collaborating,

Ritu Thomas & the Collaborative Discussion Team

Interested in working with us to bring better discussions to your classroom, community or workplace?

Share this:

Related Posts