‘Samspill’: Norsk for “Playing Together”

Combining positive psychology with gamification to achieve flow
Vijit Singh
Geir Berthelsen

Samspill Stretches Your Thinking

It sometimes feels as if the human race is embroiled in a battle of man vs machine. Commentators make bold predictions about coming waves of automation and we all worry about our place in this new world. In truth, these stresses are a fallacy and there is an entire world of work and play. There’s plenty of room for all of us to grow and flourish together – and the Norwegian concept of Samspill can show us the way.

Translated to English, Samspill roughly means to play together. That definition in itself should come as encouragement to those that are afraid of being displaced by technology – but this concept is so much more. It’s a state of being that helps us to challenge ourselves and to deal with some of life’s most complex problems.  

With it, we can push at the boundaries of human understanding and achievement. If you can develop this mindset in your own life or business, you can overcome adversity and thrive.

The Spark Behind Samspill

While it is somewhat difficult to explain this concept, the spark is tangible when achieved. There’s no mathematical formula that can pin down its composition or benefits, though. Instead, it’s an ethos for stretching our thinking.

Projects so often start with ‘blue sky’ planning of what could be. The challenge is then to find the ways and means of bringing those visions to fruition. When you work in that way, it’s easy to lose sight of your ambitions as reality dawns on your grand ideas.  

The concept of playing together is a practical solution to this dilemma. According to our strategic anchor and the founder of The World Institute of Slowness, Geir Berthelsen, the reason for this is simple:

It’s better to act yourself into a new way of thinking than to think yourself into a new way of acting.”

Samspill encourages us to focus on the way we act and the factors that affect our performance along the way. The theory is that the right environment can lead us into a better state of mind where everything else falls into place.

Our Changing Concept of Time

To achieve that higher state of mind, it’s necessary to unpack the idea. The concept of being ‘time poor’ now pervades our society, but time hasn’t changed – we have.  

Our obsession with linear time is understandable. It is how we schedule our lives, after all. The problem is, our obsession with deadlines and time constraints prevents us from tapping into our emotions and thinking creatively. In some ways, we could probably use a lesson from the Ancient Greeks on Kairos time when special moments give way to the things that matter.  

Part of this issue stems from our preoccupation with machines and automation. Our marvellous creations have caused us to question our role in society and try to match them by thinking and working mechanically. It’s an impossible balancing act, and one that’s entirely unnecessary since there’s space for both man AND machine.  

While computers may be able to best us in analytical and practical thinking, there’s no algorithm for imagination, purpose, creativity, or love. It’s in those areas that we can find our space to play.

Creating Flow

Everyone has a creative sweet spot. It’s what you feel when you sit down to work on something you’re truly enthusiastic about. Reaching it can lead to higher levels of motivation, happiness, and contentment. All of these will serve you well when trying to bring brilliant, pioneering plans to life.

For something that can bring about such positive change, Samspill is a surprisingly accessible frame of mind. It can be brought about through positive psychology, gamification, and acceptance of imperfection. By taking time to forget about time, you can be more creative when you’re at work.

  • Positive Psychology and Game Mechanics
Positive psychology is an essential ingredient since it speaks to our most basic needs. We each possess a spectrum of positive and negative emotions that work in tandem to create balance.  
This spectrum influences the flow zone we can activate within ourselves. In this zone, feelings like anxiety and stress also have a role to play in balancing our lives. Without these kinds of emotions, we won’t achieve the positive state of being to accomplish our goals and continue to grow.
Gamification contributes to this flow to help us to overcome life’s hardest challenges by making them fun. Introducing a motivating narrative and rewards system can encourage people to keep chipping away at the boundaries of what can be achieved.  
  • The Roadmap to Rewards
Although this concept can be esoteric, it also translates well into a codified roadmap.
  1. First, create a story and gamify challenges to make them easier to digest.
  1. Pay attention to how people feel and address their basic human needs – not just for food, water, and sleep – but for love, compassion, and fun.  
  1. Encourage behaviours and attitudes that create and explore to find new ways of living and working – without a goal of perfection.
  1. Engage with challenges with the right mindset to produce better results.
Following these steps will lead to the real rewards of Samspill: mastery and flow.  
  • The Japanese Art of Kintsugi
Alongside all of this, it’s important to remember that there’s no need to execute our plans flawlessly. There’s room for imperfection. In fact, in the Japanese pottery art of Kintsugi, they recognise that flaws and cracks are part of the process.
The pursuit of creativity and improvement should never end, and there’s always more that can be done to push the limits of our abilities.  
To borrow the teachings of the Indian nondualist philosopher, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj: “Once you realise that the road is the goal and that you are always on the road, not to reach a goal but to enjoy its beauty and its wisdom, life ceases to be a task and becomes natural and simple.”
People can gain confidence and achieve mastery if their needs are met and they understand the game they’re playing. By bringing all of these elements together, you can create the balance that’s needed to break down barriers and celebrate the brokenness.  

Hope and Success for the Future

The future does not have to be scary. If you look deeper, you’ll see that there will always be a place for humans to flourish as masters of our own flow.  

When you utilise the power of the art of life, there’s no limit to the journey we are on and our ability to create. The trick is to apply this thinking and use positive psychology, gamification, and the right mindset to find that sense of balance.  

Samspill stretches our thinking and broadens our horizons. With help from The World Institute of Slowness and I Wish, you can broaden yours too.

May 2021
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