At play at work

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At play at work

“Can we play as we wish?” As I was hiring various digital-related staff, including developers and planners for a new project, many people asked me this. Not just candidates but also industry insiders whom I’ve asked for recommendations never fail to ask this question. I am looking for people to work, but they first ask if they can play. Even young children consider playing a waste of time if not related to learning these days, so why are they asking about play?

It is not easy to attract the most coveted workers without open organizational culture guaranteeing autonomy. In order to initiate new projects rather than simply repeating what the old organization has been doing, the autonomy to try new things regardless of age and rank is a requirement in addition to compensation and salaries.

It is no coincidence that Google, Pixar (which Apple’s Steve Jobs helped to make a comeback) and Tesla Motors (considered the most innovative company) offer workplaces resembling playgrounds. Google founder Larry Page, Tesla’s Elon Musk and even the notoriously ruthless Steve Jobs paid special attention to creating corporate culture that allows employees to play, and providing comfortable environments. They were not generous bosses who wished to see individual employees enjoy happy lives. They knew that the creativity and innovation to drive the company’s success wouldn’t happen without it.

Korea is no different. Kang Jun-yeol, Kakao founding member and former chief service officer, said, “The corporate culture of giving maximum autonomy to each member of the organization contributed to Kakao’s rapid growth.”

EBS aired a documentary titled “Rebellion of Play” a few years ago. When children were encouraged to do something by parents or other grown-ups, they easily got bored. But they focused more and longer on the same activity when they chose it themselves. Something you choose is simply more fun. Even when children play without any purpose, voluntary initiative makes a difference.

Am I jumping to conclusions to say that the future of a company depends on how happily employees can play at work?

*The author is head of the new digital team at JoongAng Ilbo.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 26, Page 35

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