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The Red Rubber Ball at Work

Updated on September 21, 2013

The Red Rubber Ball at Work

Kevin Carroll has turned a passion for playing ball into a life's work. And he thinks anyone can do it. Somewhere along the way from childhood to adulthood, we tend to lose the fun, the play. Carroll encourages us to recapture the play to make our work not just more fun, but also more productive.

This book is a follow up to Carroll's first book - Rules of the Red Rubber Ball - where he lays out the foundation of his philosophy to transform your life. In this one, Carroll lays out five characteristics that can carry over from our childhood play to our work play - innovation, results, teamwork, leadership and curiosity - backing each up with specific stories from thought leaders, executives, entrepreneurs and ordinary people about the games they played as children and the lesson they now apply to their work.

The Red Rubber Ball at Work - Get your own copy and get inspired to play!!

From the Book:

Adult responsibilities do not mean that there is no place for childlike joys.

Review of The Red Rubber Ball at Work

Review by Susan Villas Lewis.

I have to admit I'm all about the pretty. So often times I get pulled to a book because of it's presentation and this was one of those cases. It's a small format book with a brown cardboard cover. And dead in the middle of the cover is a red rubber ball - literally in red rubber. Loved it!

The content of the book is packaged in a quick, easily digestible way - each segment is bite-sized for picking up at any point when you have time - and it was fun trying to picture people I "know" as children playing with Legos and riding bikes and making sand cities. The range of stories is wide enough for you to find a story you resonate with and motivate you to see the connections between your childhood play and your current work style.

The only gripe I have really is that while the stories were well told and a lot of fun, there isn't much hard there to use as a takeaway. Carroll attempts to answer that issue with a Look, Read, Do section at the end of each characteristic giving you "homework" that will help you develop your own play muscles.

Kevin Carroll and a Big Red Ball in Portland

Play as Work? Are you buying it?

So this particular book is meant to inspire through examples of people who have turned their work into fun via play principles. Sure, it sounds easy for Tom Kelly or Malcolm Gladwell to be having fun with their work. But what about you? Do you think it's possible for us ordinary folks to get the same joy out of our ordinary jobs?


How play teaches us about creativity and problem solving

There is a solid connection between effective problem solving as adults and the time we spent manipulating objects while playing as children. Whether board games, building toys or painting, the ability to deliver ideas and solutions is rooted in what we learned through that type of play. And ideas are crucial for business to survive.


  • Seth Godin - scenario planning
  • Tom Kelly - mobility and freedom
  • Emily Crumpacker - improvisation and imagination
  • Majora Carter - being part of a community
  • James McLurkin - a passion for building things
  • Andrew Zolli - inventing within constraints
  • Carlos "Mare139" Rodriguez - resourcefulness

Read more on innovation - Books recommended by Carroll in this section

Some options to help you reawaken your creativity, innovation, imagination and ability to problem solve.


Using play to get the most out of people

Is creativity the gift of the few or something that can be developed in anyone? Carroll argues the latter and that some of the goal-oriented training learned in playing games as a child helps us rally others around our ideas and get the most from them.


  • Tinker Hatfield - problem solving
  • Marc Hacker - tinkering
  • Ryan Christensen - bringing people together
  • Ivy Ross - visualization
  • Hendrik Mamorare - inclusion

Read more about getting results - Books recommended by Carroll in this section


Making friends and developing communities

Social play is a key component to forming communities. The lessons learned in playing well with others have a lasting impact on how we form social circles as adults and form teams to create, problem solve and innovate. The people in this section seem hardwired to draw others together and create a sense of belonging.


  • Irene Au - people-centered pretending
  • Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson - igniting the imagination of others
  • Mel Young - bringing out the best in others
  • Premal Shah - intellectual creativity
  • Larry Rosenstock - creating imaginary worlds
  • Rebecca Van Dyck - pushing boundaries
  • Tito Llantada - being resilient


Understanding humans

Carroll spends time in this section explaining just what it is he thinks leadership is based on a questionnaire he answered for a program. He sees a big part of leadership as being understanding humanity - what makes it tick and how to get the most out of it. And the people he chose for this section embody that trait.


  • Delano Lewis - being nimble on your feet
  • George Bodenheimer - a team of friends
  • Awista Ayub - sports
  • Duff Goldman - challenging what's possible
  • Glen Tullman - permission to try
  • Susan Engebrecht - coaching
  • Vicki Phillips - resiliency

Read more about leadership - Books recommended by Carroll


Freedom to just play

Unstructured play time is healthy for kids - encouraging their imaginations, teaching them manage stress, pushing them to reach for something more. Carroll argues that allowing for that same kind of unstructured play time in the work place can lead to greater creative output.


  • Malcolm Gladwell - building and creating
  • Sue Schaffner - embracing the unexpected
  • Kurt Perschke - boundless imagination
  • Ann Wiloughby - practical invention
  • Tucker Viemeister - everything!
  • Maribel Lieberman - creating joy for others
  • Paulo Coelho - skill and impact

Read more about curiosity - Books recommended in this section by Carroll

Kevin Carroll talks about play

From the Book:

Just remember: in order to play at work, you have to be willing to work at play!

So what do you think?

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    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Great lens!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I've always been a proponent of playfulness in the workplace. It's always been a huge boost to creativity for me.


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