Alexander Manu explores the World of Play to get INplay started

What happens when you bring together adults that never grew up? This is what Interactive Ontario did with their first ever INplay conference. They brought kids’ creative industries together to dive into the insights about children and recognize opportunities in a rapidly evolving new media environment.

The keynote that kicked it all off was done by Alexander Manu, a Senior Partner and Chief Imaginator of InnoSpa International Partners, who turned the notion of play on its head. He said that play was not only for children, but also for adults, and that some of the oldest toys were for adults, not the kids.

He showcased this by coming on stage and playing a game of balero, which is a game where one must to get a ball on a string to go into a socket on a stick. This is not a toy for kids, but rather a task to master, and he was excellent at multiple versions of the game. So much so that you had to wonder how long he has been at it for.

Once he was done with the game he asked the question, what is dissonance? He defines it as the gap between intent and strategy for businesses when a disruption occurs. He recognized that the only constant in business was innovation and the firm itself was the variable.

Those firms that understand that this need to adapt their model understand that they need to change are the ones that will be the most successful, he suggests. They are able to take the disruption and adapt to it better: the example he used was Apple, which is very different today than it was 15 years ago, so much so that it is really two different companies altogether.

What kids know is that parents build and kids play. Play according to Alexander is:

  1. free
  2. separate
  3. uncertain
  4. unproductive
  5. with its own rules
  6. is not a task

I take this to mean it simply needs to be fun and we can all use that more often. Talking about business and play, Alexander said that the challenge to imagination is the key to creativity, and this is what leads to innovation—which a firm will live and die by. People need the tools to stimulate creativity: an example of this is YouTube, which allows people to express themselves to the world.

The kids of today moving in our world use those tools will make up a generation that moves seamlessly between the virtual and real world, while living at the edge of both. The future of play will combine everything that has come before, with simplified interfaces; thus, the market for play moves beyond just the child, to everyone. And that is the challenge facing all businesses—how to cultivate play and innovation in their business as we move to the future at breakneck speed.

Alexander’s keynote touched on many elements, from the future of business to the gap between where a company is and how they react to a disruption. These are just some of the highlights based off of my own interpretation. One thing I have to say is that I thought it was the perfect way to start off two days of inspiration and revelation about children and media, while reminding us not to neglect the child inside all of us.