by Ben Worthen

Consultancy Play Helps ‘Older’ Companies Innovate

Sep 15, 20012 mins

The Richmond, Va., headquarters of innovation consultancy Play can take the starch out of even the most rigid corporate collar. The floors are cluttered with foursquare courts and trampolines, the walls adorned with chalk graffiti. Play’s Executive Storyteller Jennifer Ebert, sounding like a lecturer in Anthro 101, says that the company uses symbols, values and artifacts in its offices to form a creative culture.

Play is one of a growing number of consultancies that purport to help older (read: less creative) organizations act like young companies. “They know they must become more innovative and creative, but they don’t know how to do it,” Ebert says. “They know it can’t be done in a one-day retreat; they need a long-term sustainable culture change.” Play uses toys in the office to open its clients’ minds and start them on the road to “looking at more stuff and thinking about it harder”?the company’s mantra.

If rubber balls and finger paints won’t stimulate your crew, try the Eureka Ranch in Cincinnati, where new ideas are herded like cattle. Head Rancher Doug Hall leads clients, such as Coca-Cola and American Express, through the ranch’s entry point, the Brain Brew Saloon, en route to a three-day session.

Whether garish themes and kitschy decor will enable upstarts to compete with the big boys?Boston’s Gen3 Partners or San Francisco’s Strategos, two companies with a history of helping clients use technology to innovate?remains to be seen. But hey, it’s certainly creative.