Friedrich Fröbel, Unity And Modern Branding

No items found.
Words & photos by

We works in a modern world. It’s one made up of social content, digital media and contemporary applications. This might get you wondering why we would choose to discuss a 19th century pedagogue and his theories, but bear with us.

Fröbel illustration by Richard Mitchelson

Friedrich Fröbel was a German educationalist way ahead of his time. He is perhaps most famous for inventing the word “Kindergarten” and the concept that play and self-directed activity are instrumental to the learning process. 

In addition, Frobel also created a system of toys called “Spielgaben”, a collection of objects made from basic forms, shapes and materials that he intended to engage the mind as much as the hand.

Play and toys? Why would we be discussing them when talking about how to encourage creativity to enhance productivity within your company? Quite simply because we see an important connection between Fröbel’s ideas and their applications to modern branding and innovation. Read on…

The note-orious (sorry) Post-it note discovered during 3M's “15 percent program” Photo: Barney Yau via Unsplash

What Is The Importance Of Play In The Learning Process?

According to Fröbel, "The play of children is not recreation; it means earnest work. Play is the purest intellectual production of the human being, in this stage … for the whole man is visible in them, in his finest capacities, in his innermost being."

While Frobel was referring mainly to children in his works, his theories transcend age. We agree with him that humans are essentially creative beings and it is how we allow for that creativity to flourish that makes the difference within organisations. Few “aha” moments are captured while we are madly ticking off jobs on our “to-do” list at the office, because our brains need freedom and creative outlets to explore new ideas.  

By encouraging and facilitating a culture of openness and self-expression, we ultimately optimise productivity.

"Play is the engine that powers education"
–Friedrich Fröbel

How Can We Facilitate A Culture Of Innovation In Our Organisations?

For an organisation to thrive, not just survive, it has to keep its foot on the pedal of innovation. Too often the word innovation is used without really understanding its true meaning, but for the purposes of our work here we are referring to it as the encouragement of creativity. 

How is this done? For starters, by fostering a culture within company doors of freedom to think and develop ideas. Let’s call it personal creative time. 3M were the initial founders of this idea and thanks to its “15 percent program”, where employees get to spend time pursuing creative ideas, the Post-It Note was invented. Google offer a similar program which we can thank for the creation of Gmail and Google Earth.

This is not to say that every company can designate a percentage of working hours to “free thinking time” but there are absolutely other ways to foster this kind of employee creativity.

Why Is Collaboration And Self-Directive Activity So Important During This Process?

Fröbel believed in the unity and interconnectedness of all things. Similarly we believe that all parts of an organization are connected, although sometimes it’s hard to see how. For a company to be cohesive with its branding, we first need to understand the relationship between the organisation and its people, and between marketing and innovation. In the same manner we should also look to understand how a brand interacts with people geographically, socially and culturally and measure this effectively. 

Through his Spielgarben toys Frobel was able to teach children about the laws of the Universe before they could actually understand them intellectually. In a similar way we believe that an organization can educate its people about the brand through play and self-directive activity, which will, in turn, trigger a natural evolution towards creativity and productivity. By allowing an environment that encourages ideas and one that is free from judgement – because there are no wrong answers within the creative realm – we invite each employee to play their own part in the continuous forward motion of the company, something that brings with it its own sense of purpose greater than just getting a paycheck. Before you know it employees have more meaningful connections to the organisation, and the face it presents to the outside world will show this through cohesiveness and a solid brand presence.  

And while we are at it, why not apply the theory to all aspects of our lives? Next time you clean up the Lego from the playroom floor, spend a few minutes crafting your own design: You might be surprised at where the effort takes you. 

After all, who needs an excuse to play?

"…you have to be run by ideas, not hierarchy." –Steve Jobs.