#420  from Innovative Leader Volume 8, Number 8          August 1999

FORUM—from our readers

Are We Having Fun Yet?

All of our human resources people have been pushing us to “have fun at work.”  This seems to be the latest craze.  Who wouldn’t like to have fun?  One example of a fun meeting was that everyone had to bring in a child’s toy (we’re not in the toy or children business) and tell the group why we would feel foolish playing with this toy at work.  The reason, they say, for having fun is to get more creativity out of us.  Sure, when the human resource facilitator gets us to play games around a certain problem we have all kinds of ideas.  Since we’re not permitted to criticize (that takes away the fun) any of these ideas, we end up with tons of them.  Boy are we creative!

In the not-too-old days, work was enjoyable and challenging.  When we were given a goal, we did our best to achieve it.  Mostly, this wasn’t fun.  We liked working; but it wasn’t fun.  However, when we reached the goal, we usually did have fun when we celebrated our achievements.  This was real fun and didn’t require a single human resource expert.

Back to the tons of ideas from our game playing.  Why is it that, with all of these ideas to choose from, none has any value.  None were pursued.  I can make that statement since I’ve followed up on the last three fun meetings.  By the way, at the beginning of the last meeting, each of us had to construct a hat (we’re not in the clothing industry) and make it “represent” ourselves.  Then, we were set to be creative, continue the fun stuff, and pile up a load of ideas.

I would subscribe to the value of “having fun” as a means to instill creativity, if someone could point out a few examples of top businesspeople, artists, or scientists who have their best ideas when having fun with a group.  Successful people I know didn’t seem to be “having fun” when they made their important contributions. 

Fun ought to be a reward, not a means to become creative (unless, perhaps, you are in the “fun” business, like party costumes).  When I asked the head of human resources what the basis was for this fun stuff, he mentioned that consultants have shown that when people have fun, they become much more creative.  I asked for the data.  He didn’t have any.

I guess, if I were in human resources, I could latch onto this approach.  Staff accept fun. Staff believe they have been much more creative when they are having fun.  It sure beats trying to get staff to be more dedicated to solving difficult problems.  That’s much less fun.


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