“A master in the art of living draws little distinction between his work and his play, his labour and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself he always seems to be doing both. Enough for him that he does it well.”

From the book “Education through Recreation” by Lawrence Pearsall Jacks

Our life experience tells us that our most productive and enjoyable work occurs when we experience work as play and learning as well as work. It makes intuitive sense that we are most productive and content when we find that sweet spot where work learning and play intersect and are one.

But through the industrial revolution we separated these out and compartmentalised our lives into work (a job), and learning as occurring at school or university and play as predominantly occurring at the park or on the sporting field.

This way of life dominated 20th Century living.

But no more, with the complexities and fragmentation of 21st Century life that compartmentalisation is breaking down.

How we configure these core and interdependent elements of our life is increasingly an open question.

Indeed, the future of work, learning and play is all up for grabs. The technologies that have driven this fragmentation are increasingly now allowing these elements to be reconfigured – this is in particular how the virtual and mobile world of work, learning and play meets the physical.

There is great opportunity as well as many challenges ahead for both organisations and individuals.  This can be a good thing. The rich and rewarding work in the 21st Century will increasingly be where work, learning and play are one.

Some of us have a choice. Others through industry restructuring, outsourcing and redundancy will be made to reconfigure these elements into new portfolios of paid, volunteer and other activities.

High performing organisations typically have highly engaged employees. Yet experience and the research repeatedly say most organisations fall significantly short of the mark in this regard. Good workplace design will become increasingly important as will bringing these previously separated elements together. Those that don’t will be the non-performers.

One of the keys to finding the new opportunities is be at the intersection of other things.

The coffee shop always a meeting place is increasingly becoming a workplace and if one observes closely this is one place where both work learning and play is naturally occurring.

Innovation always happens at the edges – to see the future look up and around you. How you earn, learn and play is up for grabs. It is up to us individually to own how we might possibly do this.