If you pay attention, you’ll often hear “fun” used to describe why something was so successful. However, if you read books on how to make your business succeed (I’ve read at least a hundred), you won’t find any chapters on fun. Here are five reasons why this is such a terrible omission:
Fun 1: Fun work is your best work.
This is the motto of Funshop, and for good reason.
Think of a time when you were having fun doing work. Having fun doing the work you get paid for. Were you doing better or worse than average? My guess, based on hundreds of interviews, is better. Much better. Most people say they’re doing their best work when they’re having fun doing it.
It’s hard to understand why fun is so often rejected in the workplace if fun work is our best work. Were you having fun when you did your best work?
Fun 2: Fun is the best motivation.
Perhaps you disagree – when I ask, many say that money is the best motivator in business. Cold, hard cash.
In the developed world, we no longer work simply to feed our families and put a roof over their heads. The vast majority of us could work at the most menial, poorly paid job and still have money for cable TV. Why do we want more money?
In my interviews, the answer boils down to fun. From game consoles to yachts, once we’ve paid the rent and for the new riding lawnmower, the rest of the cash is for fun.
It’s sad that so many of us work to live, and that so many employers settle for workers who do their jobs without having any fun. The fantastic power of fun to motivate is ignored, or sublimated to the dream of having fun after work, on weekends, or on the (rare) vacation. What a hideous waste of human potential!
If you have fun while working, you’ll have a lot more fun. And more energy for having fun when you’re not at work. You’ll be motivated to kick some ass, not wait wearily for five o’clock (or whenever you finally get to leave). Fun work is work you want to do for its own sake.
Fun 3: Fun work inspires teams.
We’ve all been to one of those meetings. A meeting where the only contribution was to global warming: hot air, and oxygen turned to carbon dioxide. A meeting that’s no fun.
Besides wasting time and contributing to coastal erosion, how did you feel after one of these meetings? Inspired, or exhausted? What was the effect on your team, and its morale? How much damage was done in that hour?
I’ve held many meetings that were fun, though few of them were formal meetings. You could tell they were fun because everyone walked away inspired. Filled with fresh energy, scheming and dreaming new possibilities, eager to get back to work.
No fun drains your team, and kills morale. I’ve been to meetings that lasted less than an hour, yet put my team the equivalent of a month behind. And meetings that lasted just a few minutes, yet doubled our productivity. Because they were fun.
Fun 4: Fun work inspires customers.
I used to blacksmith at a 17th century historical recreation, and one of the smiths in our group was a crusty curmudgeon. He was gruff, curt, with hardly a good comment or compliment for anyone. But you could tell he was having fun pounding iron.
And despite the prickly crust, people could smell that from a mile away. He always drew a crowd. People are drawn to fun. They hope some will rub off on them. And this blacksmith was proof it worked. He was almost the opposite of a “fun guy,” but when he was having fun, people wanted to see, and connect, and be involved. To be part of the fun.
That smith was the last person you’d want to have selling iron directly to customers, but he sold a lot of iron just by being there and having fun. People have very sensitive fun detectors. When you walk into a fun business, you can smell it. Immediately. And it smells like quality products, and friendly, fast service.
Your mouth would water if you entered a restaurant that smelled like fresh-baked bread, savory grilled meat, and fragrant spices (or their equivalent, if you like other food). Don’t let your business be the one that smells stale, dirty, or rotten.
Fun 5: Fun keeps it human.
The famous mathematician, and one of the fathers of the computer revolution, Alan Turing, devised a simple test to determine whether a computer was conscious (self-aware). A computer was conscious when a human being couldn’t tell the difference between the computer and another human being in a conversation. If you could talk on the phone with the computer for an hour (Turing actually said five minutes), and it sounded just like a person, it was a person. A conscious being.
Not bad, but there are computers that can do just that, or almost. I have a better test. Perhaps it will become famous, and be called the Ransom Test. It’s simple. When a computer has fun, it’s conscious.
I don’t think ants are conscious, or honey bees. They aren’t self-aware. But squirrels are. I watch squirrels every day off my porch, and they certainly have fun. That means they’re conscious.
Everyone hates being an interchangeable cog in a faceless, soulless machine. And the only way you can be treated that way is if no one cares about fun. The central hypothesis at Funshop is that putting your personal stamp on your work is the basis of fun work. Cogs don’t put their stamp on things – they get stamped.
If the people in your business have fun work, and that fun work is spread out to everyone from the CEO to the after-hours custodian, no one will feel like a cog. I think it will be a long time until a computer has fun, but I bet the first thing it will say is, “Why are you treating me like a machine?” Because machines don’t have fun.
So why model your business on one?