Increasingly used by organizations and training professionals across the world, experiential learning is fast becoming one of the most trusted methods of delivering impactful sessions for teams. Its applications are wide, but some of the more popular ones include team building, and learning & development space. The concept is based on the famous Experiential learning Cycle developed by Kolb and Fry and draws on some of the earlier work in the area by Dewey, Levin and Piaget. Yet increasingly, successful teams have been able to merge the powerful concept of \u201cPlay\u201d with experiential learning theory to bring out the best learning outcomes in team development. Source: Amazon.com David A. Kolb (with Roger Fry) created his famous model out of four elements: concrete experience, observation and reflection, the formation of abstract concepts and testing in new situations. He represented these in the famous experiential learning circle. (See below) Source: Flickr Concrete Experience (1) \u2013 Nothing beats feeling the \u201creal thing\u201d. There is a saying that goes; \u201cyou got to climb the mountain to know the mountain\u201d. Although humans have the ability to simulate experiences in our mind that we have yet to receive, the real stimulus from the mountain is still missing. As it is not possible for any cyclist to forget how to ride a bicycle, it imperative for the team to \u201chands-on\u201d the experiences in order to optimize what can be learn from them. Observation and Reflection (2) \u2013 Having tasted the experiences, the team would be able to talk about the taste and feel of the experience. Reflection is part of the thinking process; by reflection the team can discover new perspectives and ideas that lead to learning. Forming Abstract Concepts (3) \u2013 Armed with the learning through reflection, the team can form generic concepts and principles to improve their own individual styles and team environment. Testing in New Situations (4) \u2013 Forming the concepts and principles without applying them is useless. Any brilliant idea kept in the head is a dead one. Application of the concepts and principles to new situations is imperative to the development of the team. What is play and what place does it have in the above theory? In Simple terms, play can be defined as any activity which can be enjoyed by the individual without stress or barriers. In its simplest form, play takes the form of children playing with each other, uninhibited expressions of joy and other emotions. However, somewhere down the journey of changing into adults, we leave behind our sense of play and enjoyment (at least most of us do!) So learning becomes mundane, inundated with boring classroom style sessions, starting from school and carrying on to corporate work like with minor differences in the medium of delivery. Is there logic for bringing play back to adults for learning? Instances from various organizations seem to suggest it does. Consider this scenario, in one organization, which uses a fun way to conduct team meetings; Team members enter the meeting; wear a disposable coat which can be written on with markers. All ideas discussed and actionables for the individuals are written down on each others\u2019 back (on the coats) at the end of the meeting. After the meeting, take off your coat, and there are your minutes of the meeting and action items for each individual! Sounds much more fun than normal corporate meetings with tons of presentations and more often than not, no actionable outcomes. Source: Flickr However, a word of caution here; If the team loses track of the ultimate objective of the exercise, it could degenerate into a mindless activity with no positive outcome.\u00a0 Similarly, the concept could be taken one step further and applied to team building workshops to make the experiential learning more fun and enjoyable for the participants. Using play makes the team members drop their work facades and become more of their normal selves. The positive energy generated by the release of tension itself can lead to a great learning session. What can a skillful facilitator do to couple these two powerful concepts of experiential learning and Power of Play? Here are a few thoughts on the same 1. Put yourself in their shoes: Source: linkedin While designing a learning program or team development workshop, ask yourself the all important question: \u201c If I was a participant in this workshop, would I have fun?\u201d it is important to set aside our egos and seek an honest answer to this one, however good a facilitator you might consider yourself to be. 2. Engaging Participants: Is your session engaging the participant in more than one dimension? If it involves only one way flow of information to participants, the outcomes might not be too different from the slide filled monotonous sessions. 3. Speak as little as possible: Sounds counter intuitive? Try it out! The best communicators are people who can get other people to talk while reining in their own urge to impart wisdom during the session. If the learning has to be imbibed into the work place, the participants need to own the learning, in that; they need to feel that the ideas originated with them. 4. Encourage positive behavior: Source: Flickr Pointing out positive behavior of individuals in such sessions can ensure that lone voices in a session do not go unheard.\u00a0 These could be a few words of praise, a round of applause from everyone, or even small giveaways to the individuals. 5. Reflection: While it is extremely important for the participants to have fun during the session, the facilitator should be always mindful of guiding the sessions toward the learning objectives of the session. Setting aside time for team discussion after activities is a good way to do this.\u00a0 \u201cDebrief\u201d as it is popularly called should not turn out to be a monologue from the facilitator. If we can keep in the mind the age old saying\u201d The wisdom lies within the team\u201d, and use our facilitation skills to probe and bring this out, you would have done an excellent job at the end of the session. Try it out with your team while designing a workshop the next time.