As I put this article into my blog queue for Monday, I am aware that I will be out of the office when it goes online. But I trust my staff to do the right thing; this article is not permission to goof off while I'm away.
Kim S. Nash at CIO Magazine recently wrote an article about how play at work can lead to IT innovation. It's an interesting idea, and one I've seen before—for example, referenced in Dan Pink's book A Whole New Mind.
In short, the article says that play is an important part of the creative process. Approached with some restraint, play can put your mind in a different context, allowing you to think about a problem in a novel way. That can often lead to brainstorms, improvisation, and innovation.
Organizations can provide a "framework" or "opportunity" for play. From the article:
In technology units, and not just higher ed technology, the idea of play is often in evidence. At my first job, our software engineers would often shoot each other with Nerf guns, especially if someone broke the build. (These days, you might Nerf-shoot your fellow via technology.) In a different organization later in my career, developers and database administrators would take breaks to challenge each other in chess. I was wary at first, but the opportunity to step away from a problem where they were "stuck" and apply their minds in a different way often lead to discovery and solutions.
And I would remiss if I didn't mention the obligatory XKCD webcomic about programmers and play:
But as in everything, moderation is important. IT folks may have a need for play to relax the mind and remain creative, but be careful about excess lest you give the impression you are slacking off.