We demand to have more fun at work

What ways can we make work more fun to do and profit from it?

Fun at work

Why do we fear having fun at work?

We can have fun, yet be productive, and take things seriously. Fun and serious work are not mutually exclusive.

Let us look at ways we can do this and what benefits are gained.

What are the benefits of having fun?

On the most basic level, by having fun together we can build social capital within the team. This is a cosmetic level of fun and many organisations only ever aim for this level of fun and play in the organisation. These organisations will be the ones who have:

  • Bought a Foosball table
  • Installed a coffee machine
  • Held company Karaoke nights.

This level of fun within an organisation will undoubtedly bring some benefits as shown in the excerpt from an article on Psychiological Science. Yet, these organisations might be missing out on potentially bigger benefits. There are greater rewards to be gained both personally and for the organisation if play is allowed to become part of the work.

And research suggests that the upsides of play extend beyond the individual. Teams of workers can benefit from play via increased trust, bonding and social interaction, sense of solidarity, and a decreased sense of hierarchy. Furthermore, findings suggest that play at work can benefit whole organizations by creating a friendlier work atmosphere, higher employee commitment to work, more flexible organization-wide decision making, and increased organizational creativity.


Gore exemplify the benefits of play

I love the company W.L. Gore. Most people have heard of GoreTex the textiles arm of this most innovative company. The business was founded more than 60 years ago by Bill and Vieve Gore. Despite being well known for GoreTex, W.L. Gore has always had an elevated view of what it does. An “elevated view” is defined by, my mentor and friend, Jonathan MacDonald as understanding what the core purpose of your business is. W.L. Gore view that purpose as solving problems using their expertise with materials. This elevated view has allowed them to work in areas and industries one might not expect.

The heart strings of the music

I have a long term relationship with music and play guitar, not at all well, but well enough to make some music and to have worked in the music industry at times. One thing I never expected was to see Gore, that company that created textiles to stop me getting wet when climbing in Scotland, diving into the guitar strings pool and beating the competition at their own game.

The thing with Gore is they allow their people to play at work. So one of their team asked himself, “what if I could use some of these polymers and materials to make some guitar strings?” Through doing this, he could fuse an interest with his work.

The outcome of Gore’s approach is that after some iterations, this guy found he had something worth pursuing. Gore then allowed a team to form around him. This happened through people voting with their feet. If they liked the look of a project they followed the leader (or Source as my friend Tom Nixon calls this type of leader). If people believe in the project and join, then once there is a critical mass of 50 people, according to Jonathan’s book Powered By Change, Gore will spin out a new business. So it was in this case. This is how Elixir Strings was born. By allowing their people the freedom to play at work, Gore ended up with a new business. And the guitar players of the world had access to a new technologically advanced string that lasted longer.

Play is an innovation super power

Taking Gore as an example and how Elixir Strings formed exemplifies how allowing play to become part of the work can bring benefits. These benefits include:

  • Greater innovation
  • Greater opportunity
  • Allowing teams to emerge through shared interests – this is akin to using the wisdom of crowds to make better decisions.

This is one example of how play has allowed a business to innovate and lead. I will be sharing many more in future articles.

Get in touch with us and we can co-create new strategies that can help your organisation and teams be ready for whatever comes around the corner. Let’s play!

By: Mart Gordon

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