Serious Play as a Practice of Paradox

Statler, Matt; Heracleous, Loizos; Jacobs, Claus Dietrich (2011). Serious Play as a Practice of Paradox. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 47(2), pp. 236-256. London UK: Sage 10.1177/0021886311398453

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A recent stream of organizational research has used the term serious play to describe situations in which people engage in playful behaviors deliberately with the intention to achieve serious, work-related objectives. In this article, the authors reflect on the ambiguity of this term, and reframe serious play as a practice characterized by the paradox of intentionality (when actors engage deliberately in a fun, intrinsically motivating activity as a means to achieve a serious, extrinsically motivated work objective). This reframing not only extends the explanatory power of the concept of serious play but also helps bridge the concerns of scholars and practitioners: first, by enabling us to understand a variety of activities in organizations as serious play, which can help practitioners address specific organizational challenges; second, by recognizing the potential for emergent serious play, and the creation of the conditions to foster this emergence; third, by pointing toward specific, individual or group-level outcomes associated with the practice; and finally, by uncovering its ethical dimensions and encouraging the understanding of the role of serious play on ethical decision making.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


11 Centers of Competence > KPM Center for Public Management

UniBE Contributor:

Jacobs, Claus Dietrich


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 350 Public administration & military science








Claus Dietrich Jacobs

Date Deposited:

15 Jun 2011 11:04

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:51

Publisher DOI:





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