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The CIO Today
Trusted By:
Jeff Harry

 Jeff Harry

Brief us about the outset story of your career. 

Here’s brief to my life story:

  • Saw the movie Big as a kid where Tom Hanks gets paid to play with toys for a living 
  • Inspired & started writing toy companies in 5th grade and did not stop
  • Eventually got into the toy industry 12 years later only to be disappointed as there was no play, no fun, no high fives, no time to play with toys, and no kids 
  • Left my dream industry feeling lost and moved from NY to Oakland
  • Found a LEGO-Inspired STEM Education job on Craigslist with seven employees paying $150.00/week 
  • Helped grow the business through a play-oriented perspective where we just experimented, made it up as we went along, embraced failure, and followed our curiosity
  • Grew the organization to a staff of 400 over 16 years, introducing engineering to over 1 Million kids, became the largest LEGO-inspired STEM Organization in the US.
  • Ran team building events for some of the top tech companies in the world (I.e., Facebook, Google, Adobe, Paypal, etc.) for a decade and found that even though they spoke about innovation, disruption, agile, they were not creating psychologically safe spaces for their staff to take risks and play
  • Created Rediscover Your Play to tackle those hard conversations and heal workplaces through building psychological safety using positive psychology and play

What are the aims and ideals that guide you as an individual and a professional?

I believe that the concept of play can heal divisions in the world, and that starts with the workplace.  To address the Great Resignation and the Anti-Work movement, we need to incorporate compassion, empathy and shared humanity into our work environments.  

My ideals include:

  • Following your curiosity.
  • Rediscovering your zone of genius.
  • Embracing your weirdness.
  • Taking bold risks that make you nerd-cited.

This play-oriented mindset is where our most significant innovations have come from and are the foundation of the most successful organizations in the world.  Google’s 20% rule provided a playground for staff to pursue projects that make them come alive as long as it benefited Google lead to the creation of Adsense, Gmail, and Google News.  That is what is possible when you provide your staff the environment to play, take risks, and innovate.

Enlighten us about your greatest strength.  How are you different from others in your field? 

My greatest strength is assisting leaders in building psychologically safe work environments where teams feel comfortable having difficult conversations, embracing their zone of genius/flow work, and taking bold steps to help their organization evolve, where other groups cower and continue to follow the status quo. 

Please tell us about your organisation.  What are your primary roles and responsibilities? 

At Rediscover Your Play, Jeff Harry combines positive psychology and play to heal workplaces, help teams build psychological safety, and assist individuals in addressing their most significant challenges through embracing a play-oriented approach to work.  Some of the topics I cover in workshops and talks include how to navigate the Great Resignation & uncertainty through play, how to deal with toxicity in the workplace, how to address the BS of office politics, how to play with your inner critic, and how to help your staff rediscover their flow.  

My primary roles are consulting leaders on how to heal their workplaces and speaking to organizations about what is possible when tackling their most pressing issues around psychological safety from a play and positive psychology perspective.

Can you please walk us through the major accomplishments throughout your journey?

I was selected by BambooHR & Engagedly as one of the Top 100 HR Influencers of 2020.  My work has recently been featured in the NY Times, Mashable, Upworthy, Shondaland, & Wired.  My work has also been highlighted in newscasts both in America and internationally.  Some clients that I have worked with include the US Department of Homeland Security & CalState University have been selected to speak at conferences such as INBOUND, SXSW, and Australia’s Pausefest.   

How did you respond to the challenges induced by the COVID-19 pandemic?  What measures did you incorporate to surpass the obstacles?

The pandemic presented as many possibilities as it did challenges, as I had the chance to work with organizations that I would have never had the opportunity to work with otherwise.  I was able to transfer a majority of talks to a virtual format while remaining engaging, and I utilized platforms that I did not have time to pursue in the past.  For example, I have been interviewed on over 200+ podcasts since the beginning of the pandemic, and I have produced over 500+ videos on TikTok, LinkedIn, and YouTube displaying my work.

Who in your life inspires you the most? 

My dad, Dr. Erling Harry & my mom Zenaida Pampoline Harry inspires me the most.  My dad, Dr. Harry, was the first doctor from the tiny island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to make it in America.  The amount of hard work, sacrifice, and bold risk-taking he had to do to accomplish what he did from where he came from was astounding.  My mom’s story is similar in that she was one of the first women from the rural town of San Narcisco in the Philippines to make it as a nurse in America.  Her sacrifices helped pave the way for her siblings and extended family to dream big and accomplish what seemed, at one point, impossible. 

They are two exemplary examples of what is possible when you are willing to wholeheartedly embrace who you are and follow your convictions even when the odds are massively against you.  You are paving a new path that no one has done before you.

What advice would you give to the next generation of aspiring and budding Business people? 

My advice to any aspiring new business person is to remind them that no one knows what they are doing.  We are all making it up as we go along, and anyone telling you otherwise is not telling you the whole truth.

Whatever solutions worked pre-pandemic may not work now.  So it is your job as someone venturing into your industry is to embrace a play-oriented mindset and experiment, fail, follow your curiosity, and see what you can come up with.  The world of business is experiencing massive tectonic shifts in perspective from exploring new forms of currency (E.g., Cryptocurrency, NFTs, etc.) to how we connect and share information (E.g., Metaverse, TikTok, etc.)  So because so much of this is new, you are starting at the same point as people that have been in businesses for decades, and you can surpass them in these new realms by experimenting and failing more to understand this new world.

As for the advice I’d give to business people that have been in this world for years if not decades, if you’re over 40 and don’t have an under-30 mentor, not mentee, Mentor – Then you’re going to miss fundamental shifts in thinking that are currently happening.

The business world is evolving at such a rapid rate that your ability to navigate this uncertainty with curiosity, zeal, and a playful experimental perspective where you aren’t scared to fail while learning is what will make you successful in this new normal.  With so many unknown factors that we can’t predict in the foreseeable future, whoever is most comfortable adapting and enjoying this chaotic rollercoaster we are on will be the ones that will shape the future of work.  Anyone hanging onto the solutions of the past to solve the future issues will be left behind.