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up and when, it is always a joyous occasion when you reconnect rather than an obligation,
considering there are no expectations to be there in the first place.
Entering A New Playing Field
After seven years of playing on this team, I learned firsthand the power of appreciative
kindness and relational connectedness -– a celebration of encouraging what is working
rather than focusing on negativity to heighten our position in the pecking order. There was
a civility that was carried by all the players. “Deep learning was promoted within this ludic
learning space, where players intentionally engaged in playful behavior to learn and develop
the skill to play the game, and extended the playful attitude toward a deeper commitment
to character building and personal change” (Kolb & Kolb, 2010).
As a catalyst for growth and change, I could envision this positive realignment being
applied to all areas of organizational life. This game inspired me to jump out of my comfort
zone and try new things without worrying about performance pressure. In our highly
competitive culture, we are rarely challenged to play unless proficient: “As adults, we are
taught to work with our strengths. It is ‘playing’ and working with my weaknesses that has
given me the greatest strength” (Goldman, 2002, in Kolb & Kolb 2010). The learning that
emerged on the field was impactful for many of the players:
In addition to the fun and fellowship there was a lot of learning going on in the Free
Play Softball League. Most of the regular players reported significant deep learning
from their participation. Some of this learning involved development of the basic
skills of hitting, fielding running and throwing and greater understanding of position
play, game, strategy, and teamwork. Many, however, reported learning that was
deeper and more personal, contributing to their personal growth and development
in all areas of their life. They spoke of gaining courage to fail, of controlling negative
emotion and competitiveness, of developing empathy and personal authenticity.
What was striking was that most often they attributed this learning not to any
teacher, coach or other person, but to the nature of the space created by the game
itself, what we are calling the ludic learning space. (Kolb & Kolb, 2010)
With newfound strength, I was one of those people challenged to try something new. Alice
Kolb, knowing that I was seeking a doctoral program, casually mentioned the PhD Program
at Taos Institute/Tilburg University co-founded by her coworker David Cooperrider who
was working in the pioneering domain of Appreciative Inquiry in Organizational Behavior at
Case Western Reserve University. Appreciative Inquiry is a change management process,
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