Play, Make Mistakes, Learn, and Grow in Your Creative Process

By Michelle Balge,
A small child watering a garden with a proportionally large watering can.

When we think of ‘play’, our thoughts tend to go toward children and being carefree. Playing is for everyone, though, of all ages and can help us do our finest work. A recent virtual conference I attended, FITC’s Spotlight:UX, had a large focus on learning. It covered ways to foster your creativity and develop new ideas, which can be applied to more than just UX. Anyone whose job requires idea generation would benefit from these presentations. The speakers highlighted the importance of making mistakes, the role of ‘play’ in learning, and how to get into a mindset that cultivates growth.

Get it wrong to get it right

Krys Blackwood (Senior Lead UX Designer at NASA JPL), in her presentation “Space Zen: Using the Beginner’s Mind for Rocket UX,” shared some great tips about making mistakes. If you have an idea that you know is bad, but it’s your first idea, and you’re unsure of where to go from there, what do you do? Krys recommends presenting this idea and explaining what makes it worse. This can help foster a conversation that leads to creating a better idea. If you have a lot of questions, don’t be afraid to ask them, as you’ll likely question things that others haven’t thought to ask. This can help dig into the ‘why’ of doing things that can help improve processes and results. As Krys has shown, it can be good to present an idea you’re not happy with and ask questions you think may be obvious. This will help you and others to grow.

Solving problems through play

The role of play can assist in solving complex problems. In the panel discussion with David Hogue (UX Design Lead at Google), Ha Phan (Director of Discovery Projects at Pluralsight), Visakan Veerasamy (Author, Entrepreneur, and Marketing Consultant), and Maxim Leyzerovich (Product Designer at BookClub), they tackled the topic of problems being complex systems. They really focused on the role of ‘play’ in learning. Playing is all about experimenting, exploring different things, and not being afraid to see what fails and succeeds. If you have no idea of what to build or design, just start and give it a try. Some of the best ideas can come from doing this. Allowing yourself to play and have the safety to make mistakes makes learning more fun.

Creating space

It’s one thing to know that play is helpful for learning and growth, but another to get into that mindset. It requires you to not be in a place of stress and give yourself the freedom to think. You need to set aside time for yourself, whether that be hours or even a full day, create that space, then step back and observe the bigger picture. One example of this, given by Visakan Veerasamy, was spending the day not thinking about work, going to a coffee shop, having fun, and allowing ideas to flow after this. Going a bit further, with a view from David Hogue, you could get away from the digital space entirely and do something fun that has aspects you can’t control, such as gardening. You can’t control the weather or how the plants will turn out, but this gives you the opportunity to think through these challenges and develop solutions.

After the conference, I thought about different ways that I currently create space for myself and came up with an idea of what else I could do too. One of my go-to things for creating space in my mind and letting my thoughts float away is meditation. It brings me into the present moment, reduces my stress, and gives me a new frame of mind and a mental reset. Going in the direction of what David Hogue suggested, I thought of playing board games. There are many games that have aspects of both strategy and luck, creating not only a fun screen-free experience where you have to think but one where you don’t have full control over what happens. Creating space in this way, or any way that best suits you can help bring you into a mindset where you’re ready to learn and experiment through play.


You have to make mistakes and understand how you’re wrong to be able to grow. Making mistakes in a safe space allows you to have the freedom to experiment and create your best ideas. If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas and feeling stressed, make time to get away from technology and do something fun. Even better, pick something to do that has aspects you can’t control.

At Kalamuna, we love to come up with new and innovative ideas to solve your complex problems. Give us a shout!

Michelle Balge

First and foremost, Michelle lives an ethically-aligned life. From being an outspoken mental health advocate to working at a cause-driven agency, she’s here to make the world a better place. As our UX/UI designer, she translates our clients’ visions and goals into great user experiences.