The Team and Fun
Long ago I took a course on Homo Ludens. Man playing.
And the idea was that man is in his most natural state when playing.
At least for people who innovate, I think this is true. It may also be true of children. It is not true of ascetics, or those who believe they earn their ticket to heaven by working hard. (I do not demean that attitude, I am just saying that is a different idea.)
I do believe there is a time and place for working hard. And a virtue in it. But that is not my theme for today.
So, say you are a ScrumMaster. You are thinking your Team would be better if they had more fun. But, do we need to discuss why your team should have more fun?
I suppose we do.
One, it is the natural state of man. Well, if his life is successful.
Yes, one can imagine a “state of nature” that is pure survival mode, with no time for fun.
We at least believe for virtually all of the knowledge workers that we know, they are not in survival mode any more.
Two, it is good. That is, while fun is not everything, it is just good if life and work are more fun. At least on average. Other things equal, I think almost everyone would prefer such a life.
I am not talking about silly fun. Beer pong. Getting wasted on alcohol or maybe drugs. Playing the same mindless game endlessly. I suppose each of those might be called fun by some. I do not mean silly fun. I mean serious fun…for lack of a better term.
Third, I think people are more productive if they are having fun. Especially, they are more innovative. Their ideas are fresher.
I do not mean this is so each moment, or for every idea. But in general.
Now I suppose that also raises questions about there other aspects around fun. Is there any time pressure? Is there something important to do? I am assuming yes for both of these (to some degree) and yet I want the Team to be having more fun.
Fourth, we learn better when we are having fun.
Well, I am asserting that. I think there is research that backs it up. It is certainly my experience. As we say, my mind of more open to new ideas.
And for knowledge workers creating new knowledge, learning is very important. It is essential in creating new knowledge.
Fifth, the Team starts to communicate better when they are having fun.
There could be several reasons. They start to be more honest. Perhaps less fearful. They start to respect each other. They start to see that they are all in the same boat.
Whatever the reason, the improved communication happens regularly and is always needed and useful.
Here (almost) is my main point. Although I have kind of let the cat out of the bag.
Each person wants to have fun in a different way.
OK, that’s too many for now. Let’s say it this way: Each team wants to have fun its own way.
So, from afar you cannot impose fun. Not good to make people have fun…especially in a specific way.
Some like bowling, some eating, some movies, some music, some practical jokes, etc, etc, etc.
You never know with people, what they will find fun.
OK, in the Team, will each person want to have fun the same way? Hard to predict. We think some Teams will choose one or a few things, and the whole team could be happier with that. We think we have seen teams where…the divergences were so much, that it was hard to imagine them doing one activity (if we think of bowling as an example activity) where everyone would enjoy it with no complaining.
Perhaps many lessons here.
The two I will mention now:
1. Help them have more fun.
2. Do not assume.
Let the Team themselves tell you how they want to have fun. And let the individuals tell you if they are ok with what the Team is deciding.
Working with people can be surprising. At least give them the time to listen to them. Many people are ok not to lose the vote (the decision) so long as they feel they were listened to. (You might say, as long as they felt there was a reasonable due process).
Work on the fun! Don’t forget the fun.