How do we change behavior at work for the better? A big corporation in Germany started a campaign they call The Fun Theory.
They believe that “the easiest way to change people’s behavior for the better is by making it fun to do.” They challenged creative people to come up with projects that would make it enjoyable for people to do the right thing for themselves and the planet.
One of the projects supported people exercising more. Instead of another serious exhortation about the perils of inactivity and the positive benefits of exercise, a few creative people in Stockholm turned a staircase leading from a subway station to street level into a giant piano keyboard, complete with white and black keys, which played the correct note when someone stepped or jumped on it. Use of the stairs instead of the escalator greatly increased.
Another project added an electronic scoreboard to a recycling bin, turning it into a kind of video game, which gave points and made satisfying noises every time someone inserted a bottle. Although the points didn’t lead to any further reward, the number of recycled bottles at that one site went up substantially.
I believe their theory of fun can apply to workplace conflict as well. If people are having fun at work, they are less likely to pick a fight, take offense, or brood over grievances.
In Murder Must Advertise, Dorothy Sayers, the famous mystery writer, draws on her real life experience as an ad copywriter in the 1930s. She paints a vivid picture of a talented group of writers and support staff, who, despite being underpaid and over worked, have tremendous fun cramming into one another’s offices, brainstorming, writing copy for each other, and making up hilariously inappropriate ad slogans as well as useful ones. At this workplace, the only miserable people are either murderers or, at least, deadly serious and competitive about advertising.
Do you have ideas, whimsical or practical, that could make your workplace more fun? Send them to me by Sunday March 7, 2010, and I may include them in part 2 of this blog posting. True to the spirit of the fun theory, the only incentive is the pleasure of letting your imagination run free.