This is a continuation of my series on the importance of fun at work. Fun is important and improves morale and productivity. Go about it in the wrong way, however, and you’ll have a mess on your hands.
Last night I read an article about how to bring fun to the workplace.
The article had this long list of things to do. Most of the items on the list are things I strongly recommend avoiding. Here’s an example from that article that I believe is completely wrong thinking.
4. Add fun to meetings.
Bring in fun things such as Nerf balls, a basketball and hoop, or party blowers. Start a meeting with a humorous story or joke.
You have to be kidding me?! We waste too much time in meetings now. This says we should bring toys and open meetings with jokes?
If you want to have fun in meetings, and you should, don’t waste time. Nothing kills fun like adding stress to someone’s day by wasting their time. Remember the time your phone was ringing and uncle Harry was taking forever to finish a joke? You missed the call and the joke wasn’t funny.
Here’s my way to have fun in meetings. 
Rather than the usual players dominating each and every meeting, the facilitator should be trained to balance the input so that everyone has an opportunity to contribute something. Contributions should be free of criticism. Contributions should be welcome.
That doesn’t mean every idea should be adopted. But every contribution should be given equal respect. An idea that doesn’t seem viable should be considered for improvement before being shot down. 
Let’s take a wild example. Let’s say someone suggests that all employees should park their cars in groupings by color. They assert that this will make the parking area look cool, perhaps attracting attention of new customers, and make each person’s car easier to find when it’s time to go home.
That’s a pretty stupid idea. If it came up at a meeting, it would be immediately killed and labeled as absurd.
But we’re here to discuss having fun at work. Let’s do it.
What if the facilitator said, “This idea might have merit. Let’s look at it for a moment.”
Already, the person who put the idea on the table feels valued. Stay with me.
The facilitator continues, “This idea has two objectives: improve the eye-appeal of our parking area which might possibly attract customers. And, it might make cars easier to locate for staff. There is no apparent cost to trying this. Do you think it could benefit the company to try it? Can anyone see any serious problems with trying this?”
The discussion will likely go in a direction that says this idea won’t produce anything and will just cause confusion for the employees.  Right?
But wait a second. The core of this idea is about creating an appearance from the street that might encourage more customers to come into the business.
What if the facilitator then said, “Anything that adds to business is good. Can we do something else that might arose enough curiosity to get a few more people in the door? Sally, you came up with this idea, do you have any other ideas for attracting new customers? And, if it’s not too difficult to set this up, we could try this parking idea for a couple days.”
We’ve taken a relatively absurd idea and begun to see some potential that might benefit the business. That mere fact that you are willing to entertain this idea for a few minutes is fun. Sally certainly is enjoying the fact that her idea is getting some attention.
Remember the dictionary definition of fun? The dictionary defines fun as: enjoyment, amusement, or lighthearted pleasure.
No Nerf balls. No balloons. No jokes.
We haven’t got all day to talk about parking the cars by color. So let’s have our facilitator say, “Sally, you have brought up something important. Could you think about a couple of ways we might entice a few more customers in the door? I’d like the rest of you to give that some thought too. Look at the store from the outside and think about what might bring in some new traffic. Also, notice if there is anything that might discourage new customers from coming in the store. Thank you Sally. You’ve got us thinking about something important. We’ll take this further at our next meeting.”
That’s fun?
You bet.
Have you ever had an idea that was shot down before you could fully explain it?
Didn’t it feel good when an idea of yours was given consideration?
Isn’t it better to have the group look for ways to improve an idea rather than find reasons to kill one?
I think it would be fun to have the discussion. Who knows, parking the cars by color might even work! Wouldn’t that be fun?!
Chris Reich, CEO
What do YOU think? Drop me a note.