Table Tennis: Increasing Focus and Creativity in the Workspace

Before I made the move to tech entrepreneurship, I was a tech consultant.  My best memories from tech consulting are playing table tennis at a client’s office in St. Louis.

Every day, mid-afternoon, I would take a 15-minute break from staring at my computer screen to get up and find someone to play with. Not only was it fun, but I also made a lot of friends. Most importantly, I was extremely effective on that project. During other projects I would hit the mid-afternoon crash and lose both my energy and focus.  

After that client, I didn’t see another table in an office for my remaining 2-year tenure, bummer! I knew the benefit of getting up from my chair, taking my eyes off the screen, and moving, so I continued doing so on each project. However, there wasn’t really a substitute to match the workplace performance increase that I saw with table tennis.    

Innovative companies encourage their employees to take a break from work to stimulate creativity. Creativity is derived from the brain’s incredible ability to make associations and connections between disparate memories, schema, data, and sources of information. When someone concentrates on a problem for too long, they lose the ability to make those connections. This is one reason why two of the most innovative companies in history, Google and 3M, allow their employees to spend 15-20% of their time pursuing personal projects.  

Interruptions in the problem-solving process can actually be positive. Giving employees just 15 minutes a day to play can help them see a problem in a different light. Table Tennis is an excellent way to fill these 15 minutes.  According to Dr. Daniel Amen, a renowned member of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, table tennis:

  • Increases concentration and alertness
  • Stimulates brain function
  • Develops tactical thinking skills
  • Develops eye / hand coordination
  • Provides aerobic exercise
  • Provides social and recreational interaction

I began Startup Institute in October of 2013.  The program directors basically said “This is your space, do with it as you please.”  My mind immediately went to table tennis, so I reached out to Killerspin and they were kind enough to provide us with a table.  The results were fantastic.

The table came in and became a centerpiece for or space.  Folks from all tracks came together to play. We became friends. We started asking other each other for help. By the end of the experience, we were (and still are) a COLLECTIVE unit.

I encourage anybody who can to purchase a game that requires some sort of physical activity for their office. It doesn’t have to be table tennis, though I will say it is the most space effective — the tables fold up — and anybody can play it. Allowing employees and students to have a release is important in so many ways.

Kyle Cushing is the CEO of ClearNDA, a SaaS solution that enables companies to create, negotiate, execute, and manage their non-disclosure agreements in a single portal. He graduated from the Sales & Business Development Track with the Fall ’13 class of Startup Institute Chicago.

Killerspin, headquartered in Chicago and the U.S. leader in table tennis equipment and engagement, strongly believes in table tennis as a cultural must for all innovative organizations and has created an initiative they call “UnPlug N Play” – encouraging organizations to adopt the interactive game. As a part of “UnPlug N Play”, Killerspin is offering discounted corporate packages including company branded tables, rackets and balls. The idea is to get a racket in the hands of every employee, making them all – from intern to CEO, regardless of race, gender or age – feel part of the culture. Killerspin has witnessed extraordinary benefits of incorporating table tennis into the workplace and strives to make table tennis the go-to collaboration channel for startups and forward-thinking companies around the world.