Photo by Jack B on Unsplash 

As adults we don’t get to “play” as often. But I’d argue when we look for creative ways to problem solve, we are playing. And recently I read more about octopuses that supports my stand.

Over the past few years, I have really come to appreciate octopuses. I have written several blog posts about their creativity and innovations:

So, here we are again. I have to tell you about David Toomey’s new book Kingdom of Play: What Ball-Bouncing Octopuses, Belly-Flopping Monkeys, and Mud-Sliding Elephants Reveal about Life Itself. The book explores the “study of play” in humans from children to adults (e.g., Weekend Warriors like me). According to David, while there are many studies of animal behaviors, there are relatively few studies on how animals play. He surmises that one reason is that play is hard to define.

Play & Problem Solving

Still, in one study shared, two researchers and coincidentally scuba divers, Jennifer Mather and Roland Anderson, watching the octopus tank at the Seattle Aquarium noticed one of the young octopuses “played” with a bottle by using its exhalant funnels (a siphon near the side of its head, through which it can “jet” water) to move the bottle in a circular motion. Octopuses had been known to use these funnels to propel themselves, to clean detritus at the mouth of their dens, and to push away irritations such as scavenging fish and stinging sea anemones. But this was a rare observation of the funnel “water jet” used in this fashion. Mather and Anderson developed a Design of Experiments (DOE) to further study this behavior.

This intriguing book got me playing around with the idea of how I would define play. I settled on finding creative ways to problem solve. But maybe this is an engineer’s definition. In R&D and process development, when troubleshooting at a chemical plant, or producing lithium or recycling Lithium-ion batteries, we are at play. Innovating or solving a problem is fun!

P&ID is a leader in this type of “playing.” I’m always eager to engage with fresh problems and learn more about creativity and the ways in which people are innovating. In fact, I’d love to know you are “playing” in your work. Let’s learn from each other.