Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies

Center for Continuing and Professional Education

Center for Continuing and Professional Education

Center for Continuing and Professional Education

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Dr. Stuart Brown Speaks On the Importance of Play

By Kate Ebner, Academic Director of the Institute for Transformational Leadership

“Play is far more than just fun,” explained Dr. Stuart Brown, a world expert on play, author, and founder of the National Institute for Play, on March 7 at the 2014 Annual Graduate Coaches Conference at the Washington Convention Center to a rapt audience of leadership coaches. Play in childhood leads to smart, happy and resilient adults – and play at any age keeps us grounded and effective.

Showing images and clips of people and animals at play, Dr. Brown inspired laughter as he connected the neuroscience research on the importance of play to the development of human beings.  As the foremost researcher of play in the world, Dr. Brown demonstrated that play is as basic, pervasive, and primal a natural phenomenon as sleep – and is an unbounded source of resilience. In fact, his pioneering research shows that play deprivation in children can manifest as criminal behavior – and play deprivation in leaders may lead to a loss of creativity, flexibility, and innovative thinking.  "If you want to belong, you need to learn social play,” he pointed out. “Play is important for our survival. The basis of human trust is established through play signals.”

Dr. Brown’s presentation highlighted the vital need for play in a complex, fast-paced world where the emphasis is on work and achievement. Play is often perceived as a luxury, a remnant of childhood, or unworthy of our time. In fact, scientific research shows that those who played extensively as children are often the most creative and resourceful problem-solvers. “Nothing lights up the brain like play,” he explained, drawing on neuroscience. “Our species is designed to play through our whole life time.”  Leaders too - as adults - should find ways to incorporate play into their personal and professional lives.

Over the course of the two-day conference, 315 leadership coaches continued to explore the theme of “Resilience: Coaching Leaders Through Challenging Times.”

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