You might think having a laugh has no place in the serious world of business.
But, if innovation is on your strategic agenda (and it SO should be, by the way), you might want to rethink your perspective.
We tend to take ourselves WAAAY too seriously.
And, research on the link between fun workplace cultures and the presence of innovation is becoming more compelling by the day.
This TED talk by Tim Brown demonstrates this in an entertaining and (not surprisingly) funny way.
Even my own childhood experience seemed to mirror the relationship between fun and creativity.
My dad is one of the most creative people I know. He even did his PhD on divergent thinking in science, way back in the ’60’s. He also happened to be a veritable mischievous rat bag. The number of practical jokes and pranks my brothers and I ‘enjoyed’ (and our mother endured good naturedly) attest to this.
His entertaining approach to learning made it a fun experience, which meant we engaged more – and ultimately, we learned more as well.
It’s not just kids who benefit from fun, when it comes to learning and innovation.
Michael Kerr, an international business speaker, president of Humor at Work, and author of The Humor Advantage: Why Some Businesses are Laughing all the Way to the Bank (Dec. 2013) says, “Humour is a key ingredient in creative thinking. It helps people play with ideas, lower their internal critic, and see things in new ways.” He goes on to say, “humour and creativity are both about looking at your challenges in novel ways and about making new connections you’ve never thought about before.”
As a leader, it’s tempting to think the best way to cope with an ever-increasing workload is to have everyone work longer and harder. However, without some down time, work tends to suffer and burn out can occur.
On the other hand, encouraging play creates a more light-hearted work atmosphere, one where people feel inspired to take creative risks.
Here are just 4 ways you can bring fun to your workplace today and by proxy, start to engender a more innovative culture:
1. Create a workspace conducive to having a bit of fun. Have you noticed that the most innovative companies like Google and Red Bull often boast pretty fun and relaxed workspaces?
One company, Contactzilla, has a pool table as well as a small area with a sofa, bean bags and a picnic bench. Anyone is welcome to enjoy a game of pool, or to take their laptop over to the beanbags, whenever they need a break or change of scenery. Not only does it increase the happy factor, team members often end up chatting about projects over the pool table, giving them a fresh new perspective – cue innovative problem solving.
2. Provide opportunities for social interaction among your team members. Whether it’s a few beers after work on a Friday, putting a basketball hoop in the carpark, or making a space for ‘fun stuff’ within the office, implement some changes which complement your culture.
3. Encourage creative thinking – or simply lighten the mood of meetings. One company I know has an old fashioned horn which people can sound if someone is going on too long or hogging the airtime!
4. Take the mickey out of yourself. Workplace humour can be tricky to navigate, but if you can laugh at yourself, it’s usually pretty safe. And it’s modelling what you want to see in others. If people see the boss having a laugh, they’re more likely to take their cue from you.
And if you’re really serious about injecting humour into the workplace check out Michael Kerr’s book.
How can you foster innovation by injecting some fun in your workplace?
What tips do you have for encouraging a more innovative workplace culture?