A Conversation with Playmeo’s Mark Collard

Any­one who’s been in a group knows that ice­break­ers, group games and activ­i­ties can do a lot to bring group mem­bers clos­er togeth­er, cre­ate a com­fort­able atmos­phere, and make for light work.

But for some, group activ­i­ties can be awk­ward and bring on fear and anx­i­ety. Not every­one enjoys being on the spot in front of a group, no mat­ter how fun the activity.

There’s a bal­ance to be struck in mak­ing group mem­bers feel safe and com­fort­able par­tic­i­pat­ing in group games. Mark Col­lard, founder of playmeo strikes that balance.

He knows that psy­cho­log­i­cal safe­ty is an impor­tant pre­cur­sor to get­ting the max­i­mum ben­e­fit from group games, activ­i­ties and ice­break­ers. When we asked Mark how he deals with resis­tance to group games, he respond­ed sim­ply: “I invite them to laugh.”

But don’t let the fun, games and laugh­ter fool you. Mark and playmeo do seri­ous work in cre­at­ing group dynam­ics that are safe, com­fort­able and ther­a­peu­tic for diverse groups, and encour­age learn­ing. Mark calls it “seri­ous fun” and that’s at the root of playmeo’s vision.

Mark does not sim­ply talk about seri­ous fun; he embod­ies it.  Even on Zoom, Mark lights up the room.  His kind, open and gen­er­ous ener­gy cre­ates a space between him and oth­ers that sparks joy and exper­i­men­ta­tion, and com­mu­ni­cates that imper­fec­tion is wel­come and need­ed for learn­ing.  Per­haps it is par­tial­ly because Mark believes peo­ple are capa­ble and can make their own choic­es.  Mark care­ful­ly posi­tions activ­i­ty guide­lines as invi­ta­tions, not directives.

“Peo­ple view the work that I’ve done in this space, using group games and activ­i­ties, as friv­o­lous. It’s just fun, it’s just play­ful. It has no mean­ing, it has no impact, no import. So one of the most dif­fi­cult things of my career has been to share and artic­u­late why fun should be tak­en more seri­ous­ly. I’m so grate­ful now, with so much sci­ence to back this up, that there is a lot of evi­dence that says we should be tak­ing fun more seriously.”

~ Mark Collard

In my inter­view with Mark for Learn­ing at the Edge., he talks about when he as a young man at a youth lead­er­ship camp expe­ri­enced first­hand how games can empow­er peo­ple to have trans­for­ma­tive expe­ri­ences. Then, lat­er in life, he decid­ed to explore how and why that hap­pened and make it his busi­ness to bring it to others.

Mark explains Chal­lenge by Choice and the pow­er of safe and brave learn­ing spaces; in fact, the inter­view is chock full of insight into ide­al learning.

I hope you’ll lis­ten in on my con­ver­sa­tion with Mark in this episode of Learn­ing at the Edge. I think you’ll find what he has to say inter­est­ing, infor­ma­tive, and as always, fun.

Lis­ten here.

Learn more about Mark Col­lard here

Learn more about the Insti­tute for Expe­ri­en­tial Learn­ing here.