Play at work: so much more than Ping Pong

In this episode, Ryan Burwell, Director of Training & Facilitation at TwentyOne Toys shares how leaders can use the joy, curiosity, and experimentation of play to create stronger teams and improve business results.

  • Play is a mindset of curiosity, experimentation, learning from failure and embracing diversity – it’s not about ping pong tables and team karaoke events. While social moments are important, play runs deeper. It is about how leaders invite teams to ideate, to try new things, and to think beyond what’s been done before.
  • Leaders have a critical role in unlocking play for their teams. Great leaders allow teams to truly ideate in early stages of projects, are choiceful in their language (e.g., “let’s play with that more”), and avoid ‘shutting down’ ideation too quickly after failure.
  • Play can drive better performance. Better business results are driven by the new, creative, and stronger ideas that are unlocked through play-inspired experimentation and open-minded thinking. Teams may experience stronger retention by creating an environment where individuals are having fun, thinking big, and feeling like they can introduce new ideas.
  • Strong emotional intelligence is critical for leadership success. Empathy helps leaders tap into diversity and unlock innovation. Embracing failure helps leaders develop resiliency, strength, and confidence.

Connect with Ryan Burwell on LinkedIn here. Check out TwentyOne Toys here.

Meet Ryan Burwell

Ryan is passionate about play. He believes that organizations who approach work and teams with curiosity, experimentation, open-minds, fun and joy will ultimately achieve better results. Both for the business and for the human beings inside. As the Director of Training and Facilitation at TwentyOne Toys, Ryan has worked with executives, post-secondary organizations and teams all over the world increase their emotional intelligence through play. Ryan believes that playing is learning – and that we’ll never be too old or too accomplished to benefit from both. 


Founded by Tineke Keesmaat, TILTCO is a boutique consulting company that helps leaders define and execute their strategies in order to achieve extraordinary business and personal results. As our LeaderLab host, Tineke brings her more than 20 years of leadership consulting experience rooted at McKinsey & Company, Accenture, and TILTCO to support today’s leaders achieve exceptional results.