Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.

Mike Tyson

No plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first encounter with the main enemy forces.

Field Marshall Helmuth von Moltke, the Elder
Your next word depends on theirs

With whatever you find you create your glad games, I spend both my time and my strength over things I never can obtain.

In my frail canoe I struggle to cross the sea of desire, and forget that I too am playing a game.

Rabindranath Tagore, Playthings

We like to think we have control, that we can plan and that our plans are executed. Nothing is further than the reality of our lives at work and at home. We are stuck living in an interplay of forces. Rather than cling to an illusion of control we need to embrace the work of play.

Management gurus specialised in simple catchy easy to execute recommendations, Five key steps or the One Thing you need to do. These ideas look great in a book, an infographic or a Ted Talk. Yet they never quite work out. In a networked world of real humans we live in a series of nested ‘if then’ statements. We don’t act. We react. Our first intentions rarely hold beyond the first ‘punch in the mouth’.

Throw away the lights, the definitions,
And say of what you see in the dark

That it is this or that it is that,
But do not use the rotted names.

Wallace Stevens, The Man With the Blue Guitar

We can try to fight for our sense of control with ever more elaborate plans. We still lose out consistently to the dynamic, fickle, and emotional world of people. Only when we embrace that we are dealing with humans do we begin to understand that everything is interplay. The forces are many and varied. We should plan for open options and the creativity of our response. The better we respect and react to a context, a conversation or a curiosity the better we will perform. Paths outperform plans. Options have value. Conversations communicate and inform us.

Because we accept interplay, we can start to see the power of play. What you set out to achieve in a complex networked and dynamic world of humans is far less than is possible. The worst you could possibly do is achieve it alone. Embracing play brings forth the creative potential of people pushing against each other. By playing in the moment with another we must respect their intentions, contributions and their efforts as peers. The game demands it.

the music 

silk makes settling 

across a bared 


Rita Dove, Scarf

So much of the richness of life and relationships comes from the power to surprise, the interplay of forces beyond our control to create the unexpected. By accepting that our human peers are not inert widgets we can leverage all their contributions. We can explore the new options created and surfaced through interplay. Lean into the play and enjoy the messy beauty of what might be.

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