My first exposure to the Spirit and Place Festival was in 2010, when the theme of the festival, which changes each year, was “Food for Thought”. As a new member of the faculty of the Kelley School of Business at IUPUI, I was delightfully surprised to find, in a city that I had described to my east coast friends as “very conservative”, a festival that brings together religious and spiritual leaders, artists, musicians, dancers, and professionals from all walks of life to engage in a community celebration and conversation about the intersection of spirit with place.
This year’s festival, the 17th, will take place November 2-11 with the theme Play…in a “place” that recently hosted “the Big Game”.
So what does a business professor know about Play? Quite a bit, actually. I’m a huge advocate of experiential learning to help students learn operations management. Taught the “normal” way, their eyes glaze over when I start to lecture. So my challenge has been finding ways to bring what can be a very dry subject alive. I’ve used everything from board games to YouTube videos to help student visualize operations processes and concepts.
In 2007, I started using the 3D virtual world, Second Life, to help students learn the subject. They selected a business type and compared and contrasted a real life business with a virtual one of the same type. They prepared a short report and made presentations…all using their Second Life avatar. I also teach purchasing. This year, 11 teams of my students did their negotiation exercise with teams of students from Indiana State University using Second Life. My students were buyers and the ISU students were sellers. And this is how I came to be asked to be on the selection committee for this year’s Spirit and Place festival….I use play in my work.
What else can one do with these virtual games? Role play medieval times, work as a performer by playing an instrument or singing, play paint ball, learn or teach a language, work with people all over the world to host an event such as the virtual Burning Man. You can perform in or attend a play, play in a sports league, and own a business making things that you sell to other avatars. So when is work play? When your avatar does it!