Feature Article: Are You Ready to Play the Integral Way? The Next Evolution of Leadership

Patricia von Papstein

For Victoria and Julian


patricia von papsteinAs conscious leaders, we feel responsible for the life quality on this planet. We invent and design products and services that are sustainable and provide deep support, i.e., they are tools for life assistance. We initiate social responsibility projects. We fund creative industries. We invest in water protection, healthcare prevention and e-learning. We support projects for understanding and forgiveness between sexes, generations, political and cultural belief systems. From our individual perspective, we want to create satisfaction and peace of mind for everybody.

But we seldom utilize our playfulness when there is need to create next level solutions. This is astonishing, because playfulness is the most powerful driver for all species, including mankind, to innovate. The attentive attitude, a state with no obvious or hidden agenda in thought and action, is the most impressing expressions living creatures can produce. We can’t even imagine that this is the attitude we need to shape a future worth living for. Perhaps we dream to be enlightened managers (Aburdene, 2005), but we have not cultivated our senses for humor, sensuality and magic in our business routines. Most of the time, we feel ashamed to do things playfully. This is where integral playfulness can offer relief and create a new freedom for thought and action.

Why We Reach Out for Integral Playfulness

Playfulness is the most innovative human expression for creating a high quality of life. In history there has been no lasting improvement of economic wealth and cultural prosperity out of pain and loss. War and environmental catastrophes brought out ways of survival. Times of peace and understanding made us presents like technological breakthroughs and cultural exchange. Play is the catalyst to create progress and is the mother of culture (Huizinga 1971) Through play creations that appeal like a holy ritual, e.g., Olympic games, carnival) societies cultivated their relationships and encounters.

Today, we realize our interdependencies around the globe. We face “chronic” challenges (Martin, 2006). Explosion of population, lack of energy, pollution of food, poverty and crime are not regional issues any longer. In this situation, playfulness can help to transform us. It is a powerful vision to proceed to become integrative players (Gordon and Esbjörn-Hargens, 2007), who initiate our next social metamorphosis: noble playfulness at any time for anybody.

If our minds stay “greed or sacrifice” fixated and if we see only scarcity and betrayal around us, we will produce closed-minded solutions, too rigid to create liberation from rude forms of cooperation. We have to refrain from a thought pattern that traps us in games in an either live or die modus. Human playfulness is suppressed, if we only play head games. Integral playfulness is thinking and acting. Integral playfulness focuses our attention on unexpected opportunities. We need integral playfulness to unblock our behavior when faced with anxiety and insecurity. The current global financial catastrophe shows how cheaters, who don’t dare to play with our lives and possessions have paralyzed our decision possibilities. It is not enough to throw cheaters out of the game, again and again. We badly need to ennoble play rules to enter a global level of creative wealth.

table 1

Table 1: Our View of the World Creates the Rules of Our Games

Our view of the world results in play rules for life. Basic play rules are our benchmarks for success and integrity. With them we frame and judge our actions. But, even if I have left behind a view of the world as a battlefield, this does not automatically mean that I play games with the expertise and smartness of an ironist or a magician (Cook-Greuter, 2000). A new dimension of courage is needed to initiate green and yellow play settings (See Table 1), according to Spiral Dynamics levels of development represented by colors (Beck and Cowan, 1996). Being able to play the integral way is a matter of initiating level yellow playful missions and of being very smart in convincing people whose playfulness ranges in blue and orange to change to green and yellow play rules that add value. If our play partners are not willing to share yellow play joys, we leaders have not installed integral playfulness quality.

Today a new league of business people has entered the stage. You find them engaged in open source cooperation, e.g., www.creativecommons.orgor The protagonists of these networks agree upon the play rule of “sharing nicely”. They create new rules for intellectual property and joint ownership within creative industries.

new attitudes

Thirty years ago the formula for win-win strategy was very en vogue among managers. The Harvard negotiation project tried to obey the same play rule: share nicely. Researchers worked on a new approach to conflict resolution. They believed that a conflict of interests could be resolved if each party to the conflict could receive some kind of reward for cooperating. The Harvard project became cult in management literature, but never entered the top management decision-making culture (Arrow et al, 1995).

The old and young pioneers of cooperation have done a great job—but we can go further. A new dimension of playfulness is what we need! Cooperation fails if we play on playgrounds where mental and real play territories provide few options to change our perspective. If there are only a few switches of perspective and experience possible, we know the level of playfulness is low. The best playgrounds are there where science, economy and culture meet. Refraining from insider games and inventing manifold cross interest group games is the kind of playfulness that we need to invent.

recognize play

The established leaders I am working with tell me that they reject being called players. Some reject the expression player, because they think that they already left the dirty playgrounds of dominance and humiliation. They believe that they don’t fall back into cheating and blaming games. “Player” for them has a connotation of being ridiculous and risk driven. Some reject the expression, because they think that playfulness is an attitude about life that is inappropriate after passing the age of 20. For them, a player has no chance to survive competitive business games. They look upon players as unproductive dreamers.

The young generation of decision-makers I am working with have a more laid back attitude towards playing—they see products as toys. The world of mobile phones and laptops is a world created by managers who have become toymakers. For them, gaming is a matter of survival. If there is no entertainment value, products will not survive in the market.

Whenever playfulness comes up in a discussion among leaders, they have no vision of what conscious, enlightened, sustainable gaming could look like. The typical approach to this phenomenon is “first we have to solve problems, then we can take care of cultural issues”. Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory suggests that we have to proceed along many lines of our development. I agree. From a playful point of view, it is a waste of capacities and a strangulation of human expression, if we develop our cognitive and moral abilities and show no excellence in an aesthetic or psychosexual line of development (Huizinga, 1955). Integral playfulness has the goal to activate as many lines of development as possible at the same time. Playful minds are prototypes of “all in one spirited” leaders. The leaders of the 21st century are individuals who love to develop in an uncommon way. They put emphasis on unleashing their psychosexual, aesthetic and transpersonal potential. In order to make a contribution to inventing and shaping a good future, a person with leadership talents needs to develop a playful mind.

The leadership literature is filled with descriptions of the ideal leading approaches, as a coach, as a mentor, as an individual with endless caring capabilities, acting like a healer. But, our leading routines tell another story. We know how it hurts to make strong decisions and see the gap between reality and vision every day. Very often we feel like tragic heroes. Our tragedy is that we make other people and ourselves believe that (business) games can be controlled and regulated. This is the state of an ordered or a status-oriented player. (Gordon and Esbjörn–Hargens, 2007)

Listen to this song!

song 1 cold play viva la vida

A leader as a playful mind reaches out for the next evolution of leadership. The next evolution of leadership is beyond practices of work life balance. It is beyond training camps for intuition and creativity. It is beyond sustainable global strategies. The secret lies in three new ways of acting:

  • Ready to act with no agenda!
  • Ready to handle creative destruction!
  • Ready to see life as a universal play space!

Listen to this song!

song 2 robby williams feel

A playful mind is a smart leader, a person with a sense for vulnerability. That is one big reward for becoming a playful mind: you can show weaknesses and doubt without losing your authority.

The social community founders (,, and the inventors of modern fabrics like www.skysails,info, and nanotech clothing like give us a taste of a new leader attitude. They show to the public what they love to do and involve people in sharing their visions, their acts of responsibility, playfully. These eco-entrepreneurs give us hope. I love to invite them to take a further step to enter the joys of integral playfulness.

Integral play is a catalyst to encourage leaders to invent a modern charisma that is not based on making people feel frightened or seduced, but supporting them to feel ready to play. Utilizing the impact of integral playfulness, a leader can cultivate a visible expression of leadership talent that is urgently needed to push society from a conventional way of living to a post conventional state: hospitality.

Hospitality—inviting the stranger to your house—is a highly developed expression of generosity and well known in every culture and country of the world. Societies with no fear of strangers or the foreign prosper in comparison to societies where the foreign is excluded, controlled or neglected. The ability to act like a host shows that a leader has an awareness of playful action. Look around at how few invitations are issued among business people to cooperate beyond ego and you see how playfulness is imprisoned in games of dominance and submission. Begin to invite your business partners, customers, employees, and citizens to meet you on neutral playgrounds. Obey the basic rule, “I am here to add lasting value”. Free yourself from cheating and blaming and you will experience the impacts of integral playfulness: people develop creative wealth.

Integral playfulness triggers three important motivations for individuals and groups to proceed: the longing to

  • Improve in all lines of development
  • Unleash modern expressions of hospitality
  • Combine goal directedness with transpersonal rewards.

Listen to this song!

song 3 India Arie

So where to start? Most of our business procedures are a mess in terms of playfulness. The rituals we share at conferences and meetings seem still to be acts of power demonstration and submission or celebrations of camaraderie, totally denying a difference in heritage and life habits of our play partners. I am sad if I look at all the beautiful progressive initiatives like or People share mind boosting ideas and manifests, but the celebration culture is still the one of mass events—speeches in front of large audiences. The new culture of playfulness has not yet created new symbols and celebration techniques.

We are arrogant if we think that we need no cultivation of our human playfulness. Integral playfulness guides us to enable our holistic view of the world. There are first glimmers of hope, which show that we can link our readiness to play with our longing to transform to higher levels of consciousness and our longing to create beauty and meaning at the same time in our lives. Playing the integral way means to follow through: the dreamer’s attitude (thinking with no boundaries and no pressure) matures to the attitude of a visionary with excellence in reflecting about our human delusions of grandeur with a twinkle in our eyes. The realist’s attitude (actions must create sensible results) can mature to the attitude of an artist with excellence in combining craftsmanship with reliability.

Benchmarks of Successful Integral Playfulness Design

The outcomes described here are a product of two years of research, testing and sales of different play settings (von Papstein, 2007). We call our participants integral play fellows in order to offer a difference from the connotations of a gamer (a person preferring competitive challenges). I hope that putting emphasis on the fellowship, we share while playing helps to distinguish between gaming and integral playing.

quality benchmarks

1. Imbalance Triggers Integral Playfulness

Illustration 1The trigger for inventing integral play missions usually is an imbalance, a feeling of being torn apart between conflicting possibilities to act, an experience many people realize in modern society. There are many triggers: rudeness in a love relationship, staying healthy, sustainable production of energy, weather resistant architectural design, knowledge sharing, etc. A play mission designed according to Integral Theory can demonstrate that it adds lasting value to the lives of our play fellows.

True Valuables

Life in modern society is overflowing with things. However, this abundance does not necessarily provide us with exactly what we are seeking in life, i.e., beauty and meaning. How can we draw the essence of what surrounds us? By using the things we have come to own and love in a playful way. This is the central concept behind the ”true valuables“ game design, a play mission engaging our thoughts and actions around what to keep and what to let go. (Beaudrillard, 2006)

People with vivid and questioning minds unite. Women and men from the most diverse geographical regions of this world join to play. They only need

1. Internet access,
2. A love of travel and
3. Objects of their choice that they want to bring into the game.

Play fellows play ”online“ and ”face to face“. They test out the choices of their valuables in both familiar and totally new surroundings. This is how the “true valuables” play fellow community is formed – a community of noble play minds who know how to use true valuables in all areas of their life.

2. Reliable Bonding of Play Fellows

illustration 2When designing integral play missions, we have to answer the question, “Who are the best partners to encourage each other in discovering new horizons for decisions and expressions?” Especially when people have limited time, are separated in many countries, and share the feeling of discomfort of being overwhelmed with contact offers, which have little importance to them (Gergen, 1991).

It is amazing how the interactions differ if play fellows come from contrary life situations. Conscious matching of play fellows is a must for integral play design. We can guide people to change their attitudes of choosing appropriate play partners. Play fellows experience that people they never imagined to play with could be more inspiring for their individual play ability than repeating the tendency to prefer someone who has the same life style.

Sources of True Valuables

We decided to match people with challenging work environments and it worked out. The game attracts a wonderful mix of people from diverse industries, professions and nationalities. Artists meet eco-entrepreneurs, people from South Africa and Brazil share objects with Europeans and managers create a joint view of modern consumerism with self-employed people.

3. Technological Devices as Premature Toys

illustration 3Most technology can be categorized on a blue level, according to Spiral Dynamics. Technology today can control and collect data, but not inspire and transform humans. We deal with this insufficiency by making the shortcomings of technology a part of the play. Integral play design uses technology discreetly and shows its limitations instead of hiding it.

A Source of True Valuables

In the case of true valuables, the play fellows experiment with the pros and cons of object tracking technology (for example, RFID, radio frequency identification). This piece of technology encourages very creative acts of hide and seek of the objects in play and an awareness of how it feels to be “scanned” and how you can avoid it .

4. Tasks That Make Beautiful Sense

illustration 4Most games on the market have useless tasks. “Collect this and that, defeat X or Y, rescue the planet.” Typical traditional play tasks try to condition the player for single skills—attention, memory and speed. People feel easily bored. In contrast, our tasks play with the ambivalences in our decision-making. There is no wrong or right. This has puzzled play fellows and some have attacked us for having no value system. From my point of view, these attacks show how vulnerable our understanding of playing is: “Play must be efficient—if we play there must be a visible result”. Higher values, creative wealth and respectful relationships can’t derive from giving people standardized benchmarks. Instead, I would suggest to, “Play must be humorous and magical, then it is efficient beyond our power of imagination” (Santayana, 1955).

Task and True Valuables

The Basic Definition of Task

If you are curious to know with how few objects we can live, there is no value in creating an anti-consumption game, because banning consumption is the same live-or-die approach to play as “never forget to consume!” Apart from this, isn’t “don’t consume” an ironic slogan in countries with low incomes? A rigid request like “Discard possessions!” spoils playfulness. Therefore, we invite play fellows to answer the question “what is needed?” A need varies if contexts change, for example, the awareness of time lines. Play questions like, “Why could this object be important for you in 20 years?” encourage play fellows to think about their criteria to value objects in their lives as necessary or superfluous.

The Task Qualities

Play fellows are invited to try out three different types of task qualities: show, exchange or add value to the objects in play.

Task quality—show:
Showing objects to each other seems to be an easy task. We immediately begin to compare their objects in terms of material wealth, reputation of the owner, public status. It is a proof of trust to let these pictures of ranking come and go, but don’t let it limit the play possibilities. Someone with less attractive objects is the most attractive play partner.
Task quality—exchange:
Exchanging is a familiar action; every day we trade goods. But also bad experiences come to our minds. We remember when a seller cheated us and when we bought goods for “no money”. It is a challenge not only to negotiate. It is a proof of intuition that there is no need for bargaining. An imbalance of imagined value of two objects in play can end in a new value system.
Task quality—add value:
Adding value is the most challenging task category. It challenges our assumption that value is created by making an object more expensive. Play fellows experiment with their thoughts and action about benefit. They try out which different sensations and thoughts arise whether we add emotional value to a person or whether we add functional or value to an object.

An example: the most adored object in play we have seen up to now is an original hand-written love letter belonging to a play fellow’s grandmother. One play fellow added value by writing a poem about loving today, another play fellow added value by collecting donations for a social project.

A play fellow’s feedback: “We love to switch between task qualities with no preconceptions. For a moment you only monitor what drives you and then you give these simple tasks ‘class’ by creating a deep benefit to others. It’s like getting into the grove of life”.

5. Threats are not needed

illustration 5Integral play design can refrain from inducing desired changes in behavior through danger and threat. You don’t have to endanger people to unfold their hidden potentials. Being forced into teamwork in a scary situation is part of many leader awareness trainings. Many game designs use a vivid or potential catastrophe as a kick off for cooperative action. But, the results are not lasting. After the artificial threat is over, people separate and evaluations show that they will not transfer their experience to their offices and homes. Some critics asked, “Where is the adventure in your games? What kicks participants beyond fear?”

Shadow and True Valuables

During the sensory experience of light writing, play fellows learn how to express their individual shadows and their lights with a laser pointer on large spaces of industrial buildings. Play fellows love to interpret the shadow and light topic in their own ways. One play fellow commented, “The biggest enemy you fight with is your imagination of yourself. It was amazing how giving my shadow a gestalt, a shape, helped me to laugh about myself and my fears”. This shows the value of using metaphor to defuse the challenges of dealing with shadow material.

6. Threshold Jumping between Life and Play

illustration 6Integral play design does not simulate fictional situations. It is all about real life. I am convinced that staying in presence helps play fellows to merge life and play. It encourages us to create things and behaviors of immediate meaning. Everything in play is imagined and created for today, not for the future or a past. If you want to change your life, do it now; don’t postpone fulfilling your desires. Play fellows need a free choice to decide how far they want to go with the fusion of life and play.

Involvement and True Valuables

Play fellows choose different levels of involvement. They decide whether they want only to show, whether to show and exchange or whether to show, exchange and add value to objects in play. This public choice of risk taking helps play fellows to reflect on their mindset about self-responsibility and how to improve it step by step. On integral playgrounds you find less tragic heroes.

7. Modern Expressions of the Senses

illustration 7Play is most delightful, if you can appeal to all senses. This is what we have in common with all living creatures (Balcombe, 2006). Our modern way of living has created circumstances where playing is a matter of expensive toys and short term thrills. The more expensive our toys are—this means today technologically overloaded—the more valuable they seem to others and to one self. The experience in traditional play settings is limited to danger and insight. Adrenalin push or intellectual comprehension—that’s all. For people with an affinity for integral play, these play conditions are boring. They don’t like arenas, casinos and learning camps. Integral play gives access to real multisensory play experiences and not fake ones.

The Senses and True Valuables

We integrate sense-based experiences by using smell pushes, taste heat ups, light writing and de-noising as smart inputs to encourage play fellows to explore new dimensions of the senses. Read more about it on Play fellows experiment with their repertoire of the senses to overcome their mental preconceptions about how to use their senses. We let them take their time to adjust to a new way of handling their senses. We are successful because play fellows tell us how much they love to detect unusual and deep emotions and moods. They utilize the newly discovered body/mind openness by resolving their play tasks with less pressure and more intuition.

8. Results— Scores and Ranks newly invented

illus 8We have been conditioned to judge performance by scores and ranks. It is nice to escape this kind of rigid structure. With a twinkle in the eye, our results provide play fellows with sometimes absurd, sometimes beautiful tabulations and magical comparisons. Our way of data interpretation guides play fellows away from ‘typical’ memory storage where meaningless numbers of pictures/photographs are used only for the purpose of impressing public audiences and peers (Fuller, 2006).

Results and True Valuables

Play fellows are taken by surprise with entertaining and thought-provoking play results. We show during face-to-face play sessions how many “articles” are in play that could be connected to color. We provide on the web faked extrapolations about the connection of objects in play and strong feelings like love, hate, pride. Once they have experienced how joyful disconnecting playing results from efficiency can be, they make suggestions about how to create useful comparisons. One suggestion: show us how many objects in play can help to start love relationships across religions?

9. Switching Between Realities is a Must

9Playing online as well as face-to-face is a sheer must in times of the Internet and robotics. Simple, online games have this massive lack of sensuality. Plain outdoor challenges and role-plays lack play opportunities when you can’t meet. Integral play takes into consideration that we live in a “connected world” in which it is charming to built relationships across long distances. That is why we offer both face-to-face and online play sessions.

Reality and True Valuables

Meeting initially on a virtual play portal, then getting introduced to each other face-to-face, going back online and meeting face to face again inspires play fellows to rethink and sometimes reinvent the ways they are presenting their skills, their interests and their goals to others. We have observed a decrease of egocentric self-portrayals and an increase of humorous self- reflections in our play fellow’s encounters.

10. The Public and the Private Person Reconciled

illustration 9If the barrier between play routines and daily routines is overcome, playfulness becomes a way of living, a life style. It is used to express easiness, not taking everything too seriously. Today, we have a culture of public self-celebration and bombastic mass gatherings. People with a longing to play the integral way don’t like circus scenarios. For them, privacy is a highly valuable state of independency (Sennett, 2003). They want to decide when to play in public and when in circles unknown to the public. Therefore, integral play design takes care of individual data, comments, stories. The current debate about shows that our privacy is violated more often than we know in an interconnected world. Background: Facebook implemented a new feature called “news feeds” that displays every action you take on the site to your friends. To prevent play fellows from misuse of personal information is no trivial matter of a good play design

Privacy and True Valuables

Our play fellows don’t communicate in an open community, which can be viewed by the public 24 hours a day. This seems to be anachronistic in times of social communities which keep no secret. But our play fellows are thankful that we don’t push them to participate in opinion polls or other activities just to keep them busy. They begin to create an “etiquette of reachability”, i.e., principles for when to have contact with direct play partners or all members of the play fellow’s community, when to signal options to withdraw. We will see how this newly detected freedom of choice is utilized for new levels of communication in play and life.

11. The Main Play Rule is: “Add Lasting Value”

illustration 10Integral play design seeks to promote a play culture in which creating, and not using up, resources and capabilities is the basic motivation to play. It is not easy to keep people cheerful and curious with a rule that at first sight sounds like work and no pleasure. Integral play design introduces a switch of perspectives. Play fellows are kept sensitive to changing environments and become skilled in coping with unexpected influences: “There can be visions and revisions which a minute can revise.”(T.S Elliot). This motivates play fellows to experiment with new action styles.

Value and True Valuables

We accomplish a shift in perspective not by shocking or endangering our play fellows. We surprise them by steady switches of social contexts of the game. For example, the context varies if we change the focus from adding value to objects in third world countries to adding value to objects in the Americas. Another example: Participants are encouraged to evaluate their decisions about which of their objects should be in play by confronting them with different timelines. They change their objects in play if they look from perspectives of yesterday, today or tomorrow. A simple question like “Will these valuables still be important when you are 65?” stimulates a new range of play moves.

12. Rewards Beyond Possession and Public Recognition

illustration 12Creating appropriate rewards for integral play is very difficult. We are trained to earn a profit, if we join a game. A profit can be material goods. In a business context, we expect higher payments, a larger office, and a bigger car. Or we feel adequately rewarded, if we can meet celebrities and celebrate our victories in public. If we refrain from rewards like public recognition or possessions, what quality must play rewards have?

Rewards and True Valuables

One measure of success is privately meeting people with the same longing for a good living. This is what our play fellows point out again and again. They see their biggest reward in getting to know people they can trust, Another evidence of progress is that our play missions testers tell us how they love to be stimulated by “making someone happy”, e.g. performing magic that lets co-play fellows smile. Our play fellows see themselves not as playmakers, i.e. people who push others, but as play expedition leaders. They love to be seen as first movers and pioneers on the “territories” of integral play. We learned from this that there is no need for traditional alumni meetings. Play fellows love to be invited instead to tests of courage where play fellows motivate non play fellows to play “foretastes” and “light versions” of the play mission.


This is just the beginning. We know that after a phase of innocence, integral play design will reach a stronger phase of knowing. Integral play will go through a process of maturation. The possibilities to create integral play designs are infinite. We have to bear in mind that integral play has, up to now, no recognized symbols and gestures to prove its value. The tipping point, when integral play design will be a highly appreciated way of playing and living, can be reached in five years. At this time integral play production companies have become a contributor to building economic systems and social connections that support a new entertainment-knowledge-healthcare industry. Imagine when there will be economic structures around the globe that have generated life quality industries. It’s not just about creating single products any more. It’s all about life, creativity and wealth for the benefit of all.

Today, we are on the threshold to be able to push the global play culture from a blue stage (life is a jungle and needs order; therefore, play is about defeating and conquering) to a green-yellow stage (life is an infinite play space and needs affiliation; therefore, play is about transforming and reconciling).

playfulness vision

The games market is continuously growing. The majority of producers in the gaming industry make money with games on the red stage of Spiral Dynamics, games that trigger our survival instincts (e.g., ego-based shooters and war games). A minority has proceeded to the blue/orange level. Examples include business simulations and rescue games. Integral play producers with the goal of offering games beyond ego drive are in a pioneer position.

The representatives of the independent game design movement like Serious Games (Denmark) and Avant Games (USA) work on digital play principles that unfold gamers’ creativity. Their goal is to reconcile digital gaming with the finding of pre-digital gaming theory. The outdoor and city challenge movements, represented by companies like Team and Play (USA) and Faszinatour (Germany), work on respect for nature and building of high performance teams. The event agency movement has gotten some new protagonists with Circ (Germany) and Sustainable Event (UK) who create social responsibility events. My part is to build alliances with digital and real world play designers, digital and performing artists, and motivation coaches who have an affinity for Integral Theory. Our goal is to invent and market play content and means with noticeable integral play quality.

How Sex, Age or Culture Matter in Play

Call it the law of resonance; call it basic motivational triggers. In every culture around the globe, there are mating and romance, respecting the ancestors and taking care of the offspring, as well as peaceful co-existence of different ethnic groups and their lifestyle habits—the main triggers creating human encounters. But our play procedures have not reached the consciousness level of the 21st century. We use rigid play rules of the past or we just break traditional play rules. The attraction between the sexes as well as the exploration of one’s sexual orientation has gotten stuck. On the one hand there is old school (occasions like debutante balls with strict behavior rituals and fashion principles) and on the other hand no school (occasions like speed dating). There is no magic in the air. Grandparent, parent and grandchildren less frequently meet in public. We have lost this loving tolerance for different views of the world. When people from different cultures meet, it is seldom in neighborhood events apart from fashionable encounters in exclusive urban districts when people of different social classes meet on the street.

We have only a few public rituals (e.g., people holding hands, light/candle chains and minutes of silence) that try to cross political, religious or ethnic abysses. Is there demonstration of unity and diversity? We have no modern expressions for this. Integral playfulness has an eye on these challenges. The whole symbolic repertoire we share must be newly invented for the needs of a global society “enmeshed” with all her cultural habits. How we show resonance, how we share food, how we expose our social rank can be designed best when we do it playfully. Otherwise, we soon will feel uncomfortable and embarrassed, fighting with our shadows. Our shadows include our ingrained preconceptions that there must be an enemy, somebody you will envy, which we love to do. Red level play missions have a good guy-bad guy classification; educational play settings too often neglect diversity of thinking and acting patterns.

Play rituals that fit into the living circumstances of modern performers is how integral playfulness can show its power and get a positive reputation. Some glimmer of hope can bring the “I am just flirting!” attitude, which we incorporate in our play designs. It is used to signal, “Please be patient, this encounter is under construction and not perfect”. We will work on more playful messages that encourage play fellows to develop modern playful rituals.

My cultural background is European with a German heritage. I am a member of the so-called Boomeritis generation, a generation that had access to many resources in their youth and the freedom to break social taboos. My friends live in many countries around the world. My constant traveling forces me to be adaptive to changing environments. My parents taught me to celebrate enjoyment and create profundity. All these fragments of my identity make me predestined to prefer a sensual and subversive play style. This is what influences my skills of creating play missions. It’s not the pragmatic style of wanting to make people happy. It is not a missionary attitude that creates educational and awareness play missions. Because I love subversion, I would choose the role of the sphinx as my favorite play character. Our play style is influenced by the life plans we have developed. It is powerful and refreshing to reflect on our play preferences and the impacts of our fragments of identity for our choice of play characters. In coaching sessions, when I introduce managers to the secrets of integral play, we start with creating modern, i.e. unstressed, play roles. There are many more characters possible than the good, the bad or the ugly, if you allow an integral perspective on play.

Sex, age and culture have an important role in expressing leadership excellence as well. I am astonished that there are only a few management training programs that allow humor and laughter. Some laughter yoga practice and the appearance of comedians and storytellers at management events is not enough to bring joy and pleasure into a leader’s life and in that of his/her colleagues. Imagine a management culture that supports female and male leaders to express their unique involvement with play, which supports leaders from generation Boomeritis and leaders from generation joy stick to create playful negotiation procedures and which supports leaders of poor country economies and leaders of first world economies to invent shared wealth! “Wouldn’t it be loverly!” (song from the musical, My Fair Lady).

We Play What We Pay For

Investment in the infrastructure of integral playfulness must be on the agenda of conscious leaders as it is on investing in clean technology and the sustainable products we need to bridge a gap in the market and create a new line of cultural industry.

The affinity to play at the next evolutionary level of integral playfulness depends on economic growth. Countries where people starve and suffer from dictatorship seem to be cut off from the cultural achievements of integral play. Countries with a democratic culture and economic stability seem to be more attracted by higher levels of playfulness. The simple answer to compensate for this is to offer subsidized play opportunities in poor countries. Social initiatives that offer free tickets to participate in “good games” show us the way (see more in a game for life(

My company only charges an attendance fee for participants from developed countries.

This is not a naughty game, a dalliance. We have to deliver our promise. Integral play is not supposed to be a management fashion. It is not a method to tickle people’s intuition and creativity and then sacrifice their ideas and actions to short-term efficiency and cause frustration, like some change management projects that were not meant to create change, but result in disappointed hope.

Help to bring a new play on stage. The following set of roles is cast now:

The Treasurers—Investors with venture capital put their money in integral play production logistics. We need to facilitate the access to integral play now across countries (recruiting and training of play celebrators and coordinators, design of advanced technology for social platforms and play devices, sponsoring of real time events).

The Scouts—Leaders as consumers give away gift vouchers to participate in integral play missions. We need that many people can experience the impact of integral playfulness.

The Druids—Management education providers incorporate integral playfulness know how. We need integral play academies, which offer professional research and design of integral play missions and play rituals and train leaders in integral play mastership.

The Guardians—Decision-makers as strategists

  1. They form alliances of integral play fellows. We need a multifaceted network of coalitions of leaders who share the secrets of initiating integral play.
  2. They reinvent their customer relationship programs. We need companies and social ventures that dare to involve their conscious customers in integral play missions.

The Masters of Ceremony—Owners of play production companies speed up the market entry of integral play missions.

We need many examples of successful play missions on international markets to vitalize a conscious entertainment industry.

Put your hand on your heart! Are you ready to support integral playfulness? We need smart heroes on stage to promote and establish the young industry of integral play productions. The leaders evolution into playful minds—be part of the movement and pick the plentiful harvest.

The Power of a Playful Society

Playing is hip and cool today. Young people show us how they hit the streets and their homes with new play tools. Traceurs (the sports people who overcome every barrier in a city by artistic moves and jumps), hip hoppers and skate boarders occupy the cities to perform their sports, music and dance battles. WLAN (wireless local area network) parties and multiuser online games are a constant part of a young life style. Although companies with big brand names try to take these movements under their wings, young performers behave like unmanageable consumers. They are very clever in escaping being looked upon as “fashionistas” and promoters for specific goods.

Go to YouTube and listen to this song.

song 4

This rebellious component, which is embedded in playing, is what I love to clear from the path. We need playfulness in its function of a Trojan horse. At first sight it seems to be unoffending. Free play operates as a cocoon to “dream yourself away”. But under the surface playfulness has this powerful impact of being subversive. It can decode, fake and switch with no limitation of time and hierarchy. Playfulness is the most elaborate form of cultural hacking (Gunkel, 2001). This dimension of play is cultivated by integral playfulness, the playfulness reaching out beyond ego.

So we are challenged to make a draft for a playful society. A playful society from my point of view does not keep its citizens in a lunatic asylum. And it will not open up flower power allotment gardens. A playful society is aware of its cheaters, but it does not feed and worship them. It shuts down virtual and real arenas and casinos and moves to open fields and tent cities. A playful society can keep its citizen from the dichotomy of being either good or bad and give instead many opportunities to play along with greed, anger and envy, but not suppress emotions or spur with violence.
If futurists (Kurzweil, 2006) are right, the next decade will push us through to technologies that will fundamentally change what we think is human. We will extend our life spans on earth, we can eliminate chronic illnesses and we can simulate processes very close to reality. Nanotechnology and Robotics will give us toys that will let our mental capacities at conscious use explode. But this describes only the next possible means at our disposal.

A modern society that appreciates playfulness is a top quality achievement. This is what leaders with integral play capabilities have to establish and to stabilize. In twenty years our grandchildren should think that it is absurd not to play wherever and with whomever you like. They should shake their heads when they hear that even in 2010 people used to be absorbed by competitive or educational games. They will experience that integral playfulness has accelerated the building of houses, neighborhoods and landscapes according to the play rules, ”Add lasting value!” and “ Keep it sensual!” They see no patients in hospitals, but people healed at home. They learn on the streets and close to nature and not in schools.

Our grandchildren do not know how to make money, but they know how to create wealth for the benefit of all. They are inventors and catalysts for life assistance products. Service is a playful encounter and not a burden. They know when to start a good game and when to leave a bad one. They work in many different tribes, clans, interest groups or task forces. They create by themselves living conditions where people do not only exist and function, but also share deep feelings without shame. We are not talking about Utopia. Economic and cultural conditions are ready to do this brave step in evolution. We have no excuses. This is the real test of courage we as leaders have to master within the next twenty years. “We do not play on graves…” (Emily Dickinson). We will play on lush meadows.

Listen to this.

song 5

Further Reading Suggestions

  • Arrow, K., Mnookin, R., Ross, L., Tversky, A, and Wilson, R. eds. (1995). Barriers to Conflict Resolution. London: W.W. Norton.
  • Aburdene, P. (2005). Megatrends 2010: The Rise of Conscious Capitalism. Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads Publishing.
  • Balcombe, J. (2006). Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good. New York: Macmillian.
    Beaudrillard, J. (2006). The System of Objects. London: Verso.
  • Cook-Greuter, S. (2008 update). “Mature Ego Development: A Gateway to Ego Transcendence?” Journal of Adult Development, 2000.
  • Fuller, R. (2004). Somebodies and Nobodies: Overcoming the Abuse of Rank. Gabriola Island, BC, Canada: New Society Publishers.
  • Gergen, K. (1991). The Saturated Self: Dilemmas of Identity in Contemporary Life. New York: Basic Books.
  • Gordon, G. and Esbjörn–Hargens, S (2007). Integral Play: An Exploration of the Playground and the Evolution of the Player, Journal of Integral Theory and Practice, Fall, Volume 2, Number 3.
  • Gunkel, D. (2001). Hacking Cyberspace. Boulder Colorado: Westview Press.
  • Huizinga, J. (1971). Homo Ludens, Boston: Beacon Press.
  • Kurzweil, R. (2006). The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. London: Penguin Books.
  • Martin, J. (2006). The Meaning of the 21st Century: A Vital Blueprint for Ensuring Our Future. New York: Riverhead Books.
  • Santayana, G. (1955). The Sense of Beauty. New York: The Modern Library.
  • Sennett, R. (2003). The Fall of the Public Man. London: Penguin Books Ltd,
  • Sutton-Smith, B. (2001). The Ambiguity of Play. Boston: Harvard University Press.
  • von Papstein, P. (2007) Wir Sind, Was Wir Spielen. GDI Impuls, Winter.


We Need Executives Who Know How to Play the Game!

Frank E.P. Dievernich

frank dievernichTraditional management diagnostics as well as the entire management and staff development landscape deserve to be expanded to include the element of game playing. Games offer a prime opportunity for observing which strategies the participants prepare for themselves and, above all, whether they are able to change these strategies if they fail to produce the desired outcome. This perspective also makes it easy to see whether a person knows how to innovate or prefers to persist in defined structures. The economy of the future needs “players”, in the best sense of the word, who have the ability to find new perspectives on things. What is needed is not so much the technical expert, but specialists in matters of perception and communication.

The dangers of creativity and the fear of innovation are familiar to all executives whose success is measured in the lack of change—with the single exception of reduced costs or increased efficiency. There is good reason to believe that this applies to most executives. Organizations have two sides that need to be served at the same time: structural sustainability and innovation. Whoever begins to apply the idea of the game as the guiding program for an organization rationalizes the irrationality that is required for serving both sides equally. Who would deny that there could be games whose aim is to not change anything? It has been known ever since paradox interventions were proposed that there is nothing more effective for the change dynamics in an organization than to assert that it must not change under any circumstances and that everything needs to be done to ensure that everything stays exactly the same. Such a statement is simply a rule for the game.

Organizations have always been the embodiment of the games that adults play. What is adult about these games is that they have one common rule: not admitting that they are, indeed, games. This is the key that we need to open the door to new ideas and innovation. Patricia von Papstein is correct in stating that our view of the world defines the rules for the game, according to which we communicate and act in our lives: “If we say life is fight, then we want to fight and cheat and we play by the rule defeat and control”. That is the key rule according to which most organizations function. And this is how organizations create those serious situations that trip us up whenever we want to be creative or are full of ideas for the future. In short, whenever we look at a new idea, the first thing we will encounter is the usual organizational concern: “But how?”, instead of the passionate and energetic “Yes, we can!”. Following Patricia von Papstein’s insights, what we need is to redefine the organization as an open space for discoveries. This would mean that our approach to communication and action would change accordingly, and we would play by the rule “share nicely”.

What has replaced the creative space in organizations is—let us ignore the terminological paradox—the broad range of different varieties of idea management. The problem with this is that the term alone already reveals the logics at play in these adult games. More effective, when it comes to maintaining sustainability, would be to implement forms of games and creative space in organizations—and learn to see the organization from the vantage point of game logics.

Modern management and staff development, designed to be organizational development triggered via the person, works on the level of perceptions and consciousness. This can offer a gentle introduction to the idea of the game, inviting people to see their organization, their department or indeed their own team as a game. HR departments are also in a place to implement the game as a creative tool in different variants for their organizations. A clever option would be a training catalogue that offers a choice of seminars, coaching and games—in the full knowledge that all of these types can be read as elements in the wider game of the organization as a whole.

A final thought: Again, the news everywhere is dominated by crisis and crisis management. Shall we not try to play our way out of the crisis? What crisis? We have only reached the first circle of the real crisis, the crisis that will take hold after the current crisis, when every last opportunity for creativity and game play, i.e. the required time resources, has been culled in the pursuit of cost reductions. It will be nigh on impossible to come back from this. If one is to believe the statements released by companies, then we are currently witnessing the elimination of all of the organizational qualities required for producing innovation. Games have no place in this and do not and cannot figure in any of these considerations. By following this path, organizations are taking away their own ability to think differently. Without this ability, one is not able to envision different processes, different products, let alone a different type of commercial activity or economic reality, that is, innovation. In the future, the only means of motivating executives or employees to innovate might be to give them game vouchers. That would be a new, a modern and intelligent type of economic stimulus package: an imagination stimulus.

> Prof. Dr. Frank E.P. Dievernich is with Kienbaum Management Consultants GmbH and Bern University of Applied Sciences. Contact:

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Albert KlamtBoth of us, Europeans and Germans, Patricia and I agree that it is a challenge to ignite a new creative fire in playful ways from the “land of poets and thinkers”. This is a heavy load: it seems that the terrible shipwreck of the Nazi past has created a psychic contraction. This contraction expresses itself as a great confusion. Ken Wilber describes it as pre/trans fallacy. Germans are afraid of great visions and the possibility of an evolutionary quantum jump because of this chapter of its history. Therefore, I want to make clear that Integral Play—as it is described now in length in this ILR issue—is catalyzing the vertical as much as horizontal complexity and diversity. This is by far neither a childish nor an adolescent endeavor. It can create great evolutionary heat. And it can overcome and liberate historic contraction and fear. It connects dozens and hundreds of fragments of identity in the national and global nexus—beyond conceptual and theoretical exercises.

This is a highly psycho-active process. And a subversive one? Hissing the pirates’ flag in an ocean of verbal reference points? Touching politics, business, culture, gender, age, science, medicine, entertainment, identity, personal growth, global issues and the relationship between private and public spheres as they developed over thousands and hundreds of years. Beyond standards of spiritual and political correctness. Beyond platitudes of coexistence. Come together and let’s share something. Beyond discourses of all kind. And ready to jump off the cliffs of conceptual references. Integral Leadership on the next level will greatly benefit from Integral Play, as shown by Patricia. Far beyond issues of core business, scenario planning and drafting blueprints. It is a most dynamic process at the very cutting edge.

>Albert Klamt

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Patricia von Papstein is a logistics expert and clinical and organizational psychologist, trained in Europe and the USA. She worked with top 500 companies around the globe. During the last twenty years she delivered successful results to respond to sensitive communication needs of the business world: cross industries service alliances, international business mentorship programs and leadership initiatives and a social responsibility fund have been developed and installed under her management.

The multifaceted dialogues with pioneers and builders of social community networks, of innovative industries, of research initiatives and of social enterprises as well as her love of arts and sciences release her power to create new businesses. To accelerate the advancement of sustainable economy von Papstein founded Tunities play productions.

Her publications and speeches deal with the challenges and opportunities of an integral play culture for society and economy. She supports, as a philantropist , initiatives for cross cultural understanding. As a venture capitalist she invests in clean water, health prevention and knowledge sharing companies.

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