The Power of Play-Doh, Pictures and Craft Paper – in Staffing Sales?

If you’re in sales, you’re in the problem-solving business.

Some days, the ideas just flow – and solutions are seemingly everywhere. Other days? Not so much.

If you’ve ever faced a mental roadblock in your job, you know how frustrating it can be:

  • How can I get through to this prospect?
  • What’s the best way to help this client manage their busy season?
  • How can we adapt our service process to better suit this employer’s needs?

And yet, day in and day out, you need to generate fresh ideas to solve problems just like these.

We face the same challenges! So, last month, we stepped outside our office and spent the day learning new methods to brainstorm ideas and solve problems.

And yes, it involved Play-Doh and craft paper.

When we first walked into our offsite training facility, we were greeted with a table full of items and very few instructions.

Let me try that again.

We were greeted by a table full of toys we’d recognize from our childhood and no instructions. Unsure if they’d be necessary for the upcoming training, we hesitantly played with the items so as not to destroy them (too much). When the instructor started the session, we didn’t exactly expect what she told us:

The toys were not used for any piece of the training.

They were purely there to fidget, experiment, goof off, or zone out with.

In a world where 100% focus is required to provide 100% output, every second of the day, being given toys to play with instead of working was revolutionary. In a whirlwind that engulfed the entire room, everyone grabbed an item and began to play while we started a series of guided idea-generation activities.

The toys relaxed us, kept the mood light, sparked conversations and sustained us through nearly eight hours of brainstorming. And that was exactly the point.

During the session, our instructor also shared two other play techniques for improving problem-solving:

Picture prompts. While we performed one set of brainstorming activities, the facilitator disrupted our idea-generation process by showing us random images. Those interruptions allowed our brains to make new associations and generate novel ideas.

Taking off mental blinders. This exercise showed us how limiting our assumptions can be – and how much more creative our thinking becomes when we remove artificial boundaries we create.

In this activity, our group of 25 stood in a massive circle. We passed around a piece of rolled craft paper, instructed to demonstrate a use for it using only our bodies (no words). We (incorrectly) assumed that those ideas had to be based on the tube-shaped piece of paper – and our brainstorming quickly petered out.

Then, the instructor took the tape off the tube of paper (Wait, we could unroll it?). In the next round, she folded it (Who said we were allowed to do that?!). Finally, she really blew our minds by crumpling and ripping up the paper.

She didn’t change the rules; they never existed. By simply removing the limiting mental blinders we placed on ourselves, we came up with hundreds of uses for that silly piece of craft paper in a matter of minutes.

PREMIUM CONTENT: North America Staffing Company Survey 2018: Revenue sources by skill, industry, VMS/MPS, customer characteristics

Play and problem-solving in the staffing industry. The props we used to guide our brainstorming delivered amazing results. Over the course of the workshop, we generated literally thousands of ideas to solve problems we face every day in our work.

Next time your team needs to overcome a challenge and brainstorm a new solution, try having some fun. Break out some craft paper, random pictures, a Rubik’s Cube or some Play-Doh. Encourage ideas that come from a creative foundation and allow your coworkers to get lost in the process of generating unique ideas. In the end, you’ll get great results. I know we did!

Brian Vaccaro

Brian Vaccaro
Brian Vaccaro is a marketing consultant with Haley Marketing.

Brian Vaccaro

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