The Neuroscience of Play – A New Method for Employee Engagement 

Getting employee engagement right is not just an art; it’s also a science.

When dealing with the complexities of human nature, we can’t underestimate the importance of the nuanced workings of our brain. Countless research studies, models and frameworks have emphasized that. With so much at stake, leaders would be well-served to utilize every tool available. The neuroscience of play may be just the right tool for that.

The Neuroscience of Play

The Neuroscience of Play has shown that adult learning is most effective in a positive emotional state: when it’s fun. It makes intimidating, perplexing material engaging and easier to comprehend. Being in a state of ‘play’ allows us to explore the possible. Many areas of neuroscience provide proof that without play we cannot have the creativity and innovation we need. Play is the best form of learning.

Some of the major findings from Neuroscience of play are:
– Play increases imagination
– Play creates a simultaneous sense of safety and adventure
– Play invokes creativity
– Play encourages us to adapt to the outside world while remaining authentic

Method to the madness: Cafe Style Speed Training

At Cafe Style Speed Training, we have developed a method based on the neuroscience of play to accelerate culture change, improve performance and increase employee engagement.

The method is engaging for sure, but it doesn’t stop there – the outcome of using it is engagement too. How does it work? At the core of our approach are the Cafe Style Speed Training activities: fun, easy, bite-size learning experiences that take about 20-30 minutes to deliver.
They don’t require a training infrastructure and can be done on the floor, during meetings, breaks, even in the cafeteria. Managers facilitate these activities within their team for immediate and lasting impact, without eating into time and resources.

We have designed a flow of activities to nudge and transform one particular area of change, and package them in 30-days Change Accelerators. Managers get access to these activities, as well as step by step guidance and the support from our team as their accountability partners, via our online platform the Cafe Style Culture Club.

So far the results have been outstanding. We have measured that one hour of Cafe Style generates better results than one full day of traditional training. One manager who tested our method (more than 15.000 as we speak) told us that “It was a gush of fresh air to training and development, pure magic and so engaging”. Someone else said: “Our performance has risen, our sickness levels are lower than even and we have a genuine buzz about the place; a new language, which is all down to Cafe Style”.

All that Jazz

Take for example one of our activities, All that Jazz, which is part of Change Accelerator “Collaboration”.
How does “jazz” relate to employee engagement?

Most of us want meaningful and fulfilling work. Employees want to do a good job. They want to contribute to team goals and feel valued for that. Harness this energy and you’ve got their engagement.

Since feeling valued and appreciated is crucial, this activity builds on the metaphor of a Jazz Band. Taking some A4 sheets of paper and plenty of coloured pens, participants choose an instrument they want to play: Violin, Trumpet, Piano, Drums etc. They then draw a picture of how they see themselves as part of this ‘Jazz Band’. When everyone has completed their picture, one by one, each group member stands up, presents their picture to the group and completes a few statements about their value to the group and their reason for being part of it.

After discussing these statements in the team, it’s time to “go jam”. Using the metaphor of a Jazz Band creates a safe environment that allows team members to express how they feel, how they currently fit in, and how they contribute to the team. The activity thereby bypasses the analytical mind and enables employees to express their deeper needs.

Can you feel the engagement? This is just one of the 500+ Café Style Speed Training activities, used by many organizations around the world, that we’ve developed over the last years.

Engagement requires managers to be brave and lead differently

More than 15.000 managers have tested our method and booked impressive results. So now we would like to introduce Cafe Style Speed Training to a wider audience, and help even more managers to accelerate change in their teams.

We have therefore started a free challenge, in which 5000 ‘brave managers’ join three of our Change Accelerators for 100 days: organizational language, collaboration and creative thinking. It’s fun yet effective.


Author: Fiona Haywood – Founder Cafe Style Speed Training

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  1. Keen to participate in Change Accelerator challenge. I wan to learn more about of speed training and engagement,

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