Word Play

Human language is a curious analog invention – a system capable of generating complex concepts from a series of simple sounds. Then, in a flash, the sounds of words form in the mind to materialize detailed objects, scenarios, and across time, even intricate societies.

Innovation emerges through the effective organization of words, for without coherent word association it’s impossible to construct the Next Big Thing. However, once the Thing exists, some words find themselves redefined with unforeseen meaning. The machine remakes its creator.

Consider how the digital age has redefined words such as phone, disk, bug, mobile, link, pad, stream, window, cloud, application, navigate, text, and experience. The role these hybrid techwords serve in daily life has changed the way we now perceive the world around us.

Business takes techwords very seriously, often elevating them to describe entire industry sectors. The cloud has become a destination for countless innovators to place products and services – an ethereal landscape with unlimited capacity and seemingly infinite profit potential. The cloud has become an invisible place to park the hours, weeks, and months of our digital labor, while storing the financial digits of virtual paychecks. Wide moated, high-walled castles in the sky.

Let’s apply three redefined words to lead more joy-filled, emotionally prosperous lives

The grindingly competitive, serious side of business can get lost in the clouds – overlooking personal growth catalysts such as fun, play, and joy. In the context of a business presentation, the redefined techwords above hotly sizzle, while fun, play, and joy often fizzle. Eventually seriousness can tear down the individual, while adversely affecting the quarterly bottom line. Spirit drained is passion lost.

It seems fun, play, and joy are words clearly in need of redefinition within the business realm. Since true creative innovation germinates from the seeds of Play, business leaders may want to re-assess that word’s return on investment. Afterword, the same leaders might consider employee Joy as a high-bandwidth fiber pipe bridging the potholes of the workday road. Then the leaders could imagine Fun as a must-have staff application; software to soften the hardened.

As modern technology has proven, the reinterpretation of a single word affects work and personal lives across cultures. The psychological influence of verbal language has the ability to redefine us, alongside digital technology. While innovators reshape our modern world through physical devices, it seems essential to respect the non-linear analog code of human nature – a system software which, when properly administered, brings about joyful productivity without ever crashing.

“Move beyond words to pursue paths of action.”

– Geoff Puckett


Geoff is the CEO of his own California design group, having personally experienced the positive fiscal results of fun and play in his own workplace since 1998. Read how Google benefits from creating its own playful work environments in this this New York Times article, and how other businesses benefit and grow from play. To explore the science of play, visit the National Institute for Play.

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