PLAY HARD, THINK BIG

MEETING I NEVER MISS Thought Provoking
WHO Rebecca Randall, executive vice president of marketing and brand development, MaMaMedia.com
PLAYERS All 20 employees are invited.
FREQUENCY Every Wednesday at 12:30 p.m.
WHY I NEVER MISS IT “It’s a great way for me to step outside the day-to-day routine and come up with new approaches to doing my job.”

Paying more than lip service to creativity can be a challenge for companies overwhelmed by immediate deadlines and demands. MaMaMedia.com, a New York-based Internet-media company, provides Web-based “playful learning” for kids ages 12 and under, and its award-winning Web site draws some 4 million registered users. The company holds weekly Thought Provoking sessions designed as a creative refuge from the workaday world. According to Rebecca Randall, 41, executive vice president of marketing and brand development, MaMaMedia takes inspiration from its own educational-design philosophy of learning by doing. “We try to approximate the way children learn through exploration, fun, surprise, and imagination,” she says. While weekly meetings could easily become routine, the company keeps things fresh by rotating ownership of the sessions among different teams and departments. “It’s easy to say that we like to think out of the box,” says Randall. “But when you are designing products for kids, who have limitless imaginations, you have to deliver.”

GUIDING PRINCIPLE
Learn by playing. “One of the best ways to provoke thought is by engaging people in games, play, activities, theater, and role-playing. We’re trying to shine a bright creative light in a new direction — whether the goal is a great design for a new product or better teamwork.”

BEST PRACTICE
Show and tell. “At one of our meetings, the application-architecture team had us make peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches by following simple, programming-like instructions. It wasn’t as easy as it might sound, and it showed us how explicit
programmers need to be when they’re writing code. Insights like that lead to improved collaboration.”

TALKING STICK
Shake things up. “Every week, a different team hosts the meeting and creates the format. It can be as simple as playing a new board game or as elaborate as a town-hall meeting. If there’s an unspoken rule for running the meeting, it’s ‘Don’t be too literal.’ We want people to draw their own conclusions, which can lead to unexpected insights.”