Projects that look like toys, or activities that look like play, can generate valuable, serious outcomes. Protecting space for these, at both an individual and organisational level, is critical to innovation.


Toy projects have three advantages in nurturing new ideas:

  1. It is easy to create wildly new prototypes because there are few external constraints from existing users, stakeholders and technologies. There is no need to design things in a general, robust way, or cope with change management or legacy requirements.

    Andy Matuschak: Premature scaling can stunt system iteration

  2. It is cheap to sustain toy projects because they have little scrutiny and therefore a low threshold of success. This allows more time to iterate in interesting ways before being forced to compromise and become self-supporting.

  3. Unless you're a mad scientist tinkering with genetics, toy projects are unlikely to be subject to strong regulation, allowing more space for experimentation. In this way they are a type of 'permissionless innovation'.


<aside> ⚙ Operationalise: Consciously build space into schedules for play; don't impose emotional limits on this time (e.g. "wasted time" / feeling productive); try to explore new spaces in this time. Don't emphasise note-taking on received wisdom.