Playmobil, that Lego-complementary, German bastion of many a plastic childhood fantasy world, is poised to enter the workforce!
Jason Wilson at the Washington Post trialed the innovation, called Playmobil Pro; a pared-down play set that can be used in a play-therapy-like business brainstorming session.
The Playmobil Pro set neutralizes the human figurines by making them all blank white (you can write identifiers on them with dry-erase marker), and provides heavily symbolic accessories — a jester hat, a superhero cape, flowers, a megaphone. Wilson visits Legoland Windsor, to contrast the Playmobil Pro experience with that of industry leader Lego Serious Play. He participates in an exercise where he decorates a figure that represents how he thinks others see him.
“I figured I may as well be honest and wrote ‘Troublesome’ on my figure. I attached a winter hood, suggesting that I’m too closed-off, a suitcase for all my baggage, and a tuba, representing that I often have too loud of a voice. I guess I was trying to be cheeky, at first, but I’d also arrived at some truth.
I found it strange how simply adding tiny accessories to a blank Playmobil figure had caused a level of introspection. Yet everyone else at the table was equally, surprisingly self-critical. […]
During the reflection period, there was great excitement about the applications for Playmobil Pro. ‘I had my reservations that Playmobil Pro might not have the same opportunities for riffing,’ [certified Lego facilitator Ben] Mizen said. “But wow, this is great for role play.’ […]
The only note of skepticism came from [fellow participant Greg] Stadler, who said, ‘This is great. But at what point do you put down the toys and start working?’
Wilson’s experience shows that play is important for childhood development, but is difficult to translate into the adult experience. We don’t play the way kids do; our brains no longer require it. So, it may feel weird sitting in a circle of grownups slapping accessories on faceless figures, and trying to shoehorn a clunky metaphor into our choices.
But who’s to say we shouldn’t try? Feeling like we shouldn’t — being told to “grow up” by authority — is how we lost that skill to begin with! Tell us, dear reader: Would you feel self-conscious, or creatively unleashed, playing with Playmobil Pro with your boss?