There’s an abundance of evidence showing that play is a crucial element in developing a creative-oriented personality. Mastery of skill is something most humans strive for. Everybody takes pride in being good at their craft, whether it’s carpentry, cobblery, programming, stocks or…spycraft. Everybody likes an expert in their field. But our society teaches us that in order to achieve a level of excellence, one must become serious, and that usually means skipping on things that are considered fun. However, there is numerous evidence of how play helped achieve mastery, and even helped achieve much greater results. Anybody who’s done business or science knows that work doesn’t always go as planned. As Isaac Asimov once said, “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one the heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ but ‘That’s funny…’ ”
This appreciation for something being possibly ‘funny’ serves as an intellectual catalizer. It’s the ability to find possibility in areas of failure. In 1856, William Henry Perkin tried making an antimalarial drug quinine from a petroleum derivative. The 18 year-old failed, leaving him with a tarry black mess. It’s a good thing Perkin also liked art and photography. He noticed that once diluted with alcohol, the mess would turn bright purple. At that time, all cloth dyes were natural and expensive, with purple being the rarest and most expensive of all. Perkins made the first purple chemical dye, which eventually turned out to be a popular color in the 1890s, the so-called “mauve decade”. The question is whether Perkins’ discovery would have been possible if he’d been sceptical or overly serious about his work. Let’s look at this way – if he hadn’t been playful around his work, purple clothing wouldn’t have defined the 1890s. Not that it’s a life-changing discovery. The point is that Perkins’ achievement was a direct result of play in full motion!