Serious Play at the Make-A-Wish-Foundation

by: Adam Grant

Publication Date: October 26, 2009
Length: 16 pages
Product ID#: 1-428-873

Core Disciplines: Leadership/Organizational Behavior

Partner Collection:

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Teaching Note

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This case explores the benefits and challenges of creating and sustaining an organizational culture that emphasizes fun and playfulness by telling the story of an inspiring organization that has cultivated such a culture: the Michigan chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation (MAW). The case provides background information on the organization and describes the initiatives and activities that create a playful culture at MAW. It also highlights the benefits and challenges of playfulness for employees, external partners, donors, and wish families, as well as describes how leaders and employees create a culture of “serious play” that maintains the benefits while minimizing the costs of playfulness.

Teaching Objectives

After reading and discussing the material, students should:

  • Provide students the opportunity to analyze how an organization's culture can help it to achieve its strategic objectives and overall mission.
  • Illustrate real-life examples of the ways in which an organization and its leaders can cultivate a playful culture.
  • Encourage reflection with respect to playfulness at work and its implications for students' own careers.
  • Foster discussion on the potential opportunities and challenges facing managers who seek to develop a fun and playful work environment.