You know how airlines always provide a short “safety” demonstration before take-off? Where they show us what we ought to do in the event of an emergency?

When was the last time you actually paid attention to this presentation?

I recently flew on Delta, and was ignoring the obligatory safety briefing as usual, until something caught my attention, and I ended up watching the video all the way through.

In fact, when I landed and had some time between flights, I youtubed it so I could watch the whole thing again.

How did Delta get me to actually pay attention for once?

Take a moment to watch the following video and see for yourself.

[wp_lightbox_prettyPhoto_anchor_text_video link=”″ width=”620″ height=”349″ text=”Here’s another version.” description=”Delta safety video alternate version”] [wp_lightbox_prettyPhoto_anchor_text_video link=”” width=”620″ height=”349″ text=”And some outtakes.” description=”Delta safety video outtakes”] Sure, safety is serious stuff, but at what point does being too serious and formal inhibit learning, engagement, connecting with others, problem solving, etc., etc.?

Playfulness and behavior change

Volkswagen created an initiative some years ago called The Fun Theory. The idea was to see if they could use fun and play to alter people’s behaviors in positive ways. Would people be more likely to climb stairs if it were fun? Would more people drive within the speed limit if doing so were fun? Would more people recycle if it were fun?

The answer was yes. Watch how they motivated people to take the stairs instead of the escalator in the video below (you can see more examples at

Playfulness and connection

When I began seeing real clients for the very first time on my first psychology internship, I was all business. I mean, depression, suicidal ideation, and panic attacks are nothing to make light of, so I assumed that my job was to come across as a serious, trustworthy professional, rather than some young, inexperienced, grad student trainee. However, my supervisors made the observation that while my clients may not have questioned my grasp of psychology, they didn’t seem to like me very much, certainly didn’t connect with me, and often stopped coming back after a session or two.

They encouraged me to be more personable, smile from time to time like a normal person, allow my sense of humor to show a bit, and have the courage to be myself. After all, how could I expect to forge a genuine, trusting, connection with another human being without being more human-like myself? This might sound like common sense, but in practice, this was quite challenging for me to do.

Playfulness everywhere?

So, whether we’re:

educating a savvy audience about wine,

…inviting an audience to an upcoming performance,

…or motivating a class of middle schoolers to practice (a band teacher once set up a system in which students had to earn practice time, which led to students competing with each other for the right to practice more), how can we tap into our naturally playful side to enhance learning, engagement, connection, influence, problem solving, creativity, innovation, and more?

How can we embrace our playful side and make practicing more effective?

Score study more impactful?

Performing the same thing night after night after night after night after night more enjoyable?

Folding laundry more interesting?

Finding our misplaced car keys more fun?

Doing taxes more engaging?

Making the audience’s experience more of an adventure?

What are your favorite stories and examples of how fun and play have been used to foster positive behavior change?

photo credit: gumuz via photopin cc