Playing with danger

Husky and polar bearI’ve just come across one of the most fantastic things I’ve ever seen on the net.

Background: A photographer is taking some pictures of huskies in the snow in northern Canada. The huskies are chained to stakes in the ground (as they normally are). Then a huge, wild, male polar bear appears and heads straight for one of the huskies.

At this point in the story I was thinking “so long, husky. Nice knowing ya.” And then something astonishing and beautiful happens.

Watch the slide show and tell me if this isn’t one of the strangest things ever.

Here’s what I take from this video: If the husky had met the polar bear with aggression, he’d have been toast. Or served on toast. But by meeting a huge(!) danger with a playful attitude it became a moment of fun instead of violence.

I think this can work often in life. It’s not the way you meet an oncoming, jackknifed tanker truck – they don’t respond well to a playful attitude.

But in many other situations, meeting risk or sticky situations with an invitation to play can in itself make a huge difference. At least, you’re not escalating a bad situation yourself.

This is of course contrary to common wisdom, where you should always “expect the worst”. Well, sometimes expecting the worst, brings about the worst.

Have you ever tried meeting a tricky situation at work with a playful attitude? How did you do it? Write a comment, I’d really like to know!

12 thoughts on “Playing with danger”

  1. Yes, I do this quite often actually. I work production support for some critical systems and I’m on call. If that pager goes it can be a case of “seconds count” with the whole business hanging in the balance – high pressure, raised voices, high anxiety. I usually join the phone confs with a cheerful tone, playful attitude and – while taking it all quite seriously and doing my best – try for a lighter, collaborative, inclusive atmosphere. This definitely helps – people stop being so defensive and “it’s not OUR fault” and start working together to solve the issues.

  2. I always bring a sense of play to work with me. In 2002 while working for IBM, I learned my team could not have the travel funds for a project kickoff (everyone on the team was at a remote location). So, we all ordered pizza at the same time, had our project kickoff phone discussion, then I put together an online Yahoo Pool Tournament that even had trophies.

    Not only was this playful sense recognized my management (thinking outside the box) but my team delivered 2x the cost savings target for the year and was the most successful on record.


  3. Those pictures are awesome. The thing that really stuck out to me was the fact that the polar bear came back again and again for MORE play. It’s a good example of how play is contagious. This is true with humans too!

    Everyone at our company has fun titles, so when we hand out our business cards we always get a reaction, which breaks the ice. My title is the “Director of Everything.” This inevitably gets a laugh and an assurance that the recipient of the car should also have that title.

    It’s not hard to add some fun, it just takes a little effort, and it’s always worth it!

  4. Of course, having a playful attitude isn’t just for interacting with other people. It’s just as important when facing the challenges of life. If we lighten up and get curious and think of life as a game we’re playing, we free our creativity as well as enjoy ourselves more.

  5. The idea of approaching tricky situation playfully is definitely a good thought. I’ve experience several tricky situations and I normally approach it in a creative and playful way.

  6. TA: What a great way to add some fun to a sticky situation!

    Modern worker: I had a feeling it might :o)

    Scott M: That’s a great example of turning a limitation into a strength.

    Kim: Director of everything – I love it :o)

    Jean: I agree completely. Life is an invitation to play, not a constant struggle.

    Charlie: Excellent. Got any examples for us?

  7. Thanks for sharing those great pictures. It’s definitely a good example of a playful attitude.I’m sure it’ll make a difference at how I will deal those tricky situations.

  8. Unlike most other folks here, I work in an urban public library, in a distressed city in NJ. I’m sure most people cannot imagine the sorts of interactions the staff here has with the public every day – both positive and negative interactions. It is amazing how worked up people can get over a small issue – a missing card, a book that is not available. And, it seems that it’s the people with little control over their life who get the most argumentative. I have found, over the years, that meeting an angry customer with humor, empathy and good listening skills can diffuse most situations. But, NEVER logic – forget logic!

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