A Conversation with Playmeo’s Mark Collard

Kay Peterson

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.