Image of drummer on a drum set.

“This is so boring. I just want to learn to play the guitar and have fun.”

“You are learning. You are learning the building blocks. These chords are what you need to learn to build upon. You cannot go straight to playing songs without learning proper fretting and chord structure.”

I did not like guitar lessons in fifth grade. It was not fun. I wanted to play fun songs from Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana. Maybe I would try the piano instead. I liked Elton John. So my guitar sat in the corner for over thirty years gathering dust.

“You don’t wanna play piano,” a friend told me. “I have taken lessons for two years, and for the first year, all I did was practice scales. No fun.”

“What’s a scale?” I asked.

In eighth grade, my musical interests grew. I listened to a wide variety of musicians and styles. The drums always looked fun. “Maybe I will try percussion,” I thought to myself. After beating on my mother’s Tupperware® for several months, I noticed a house in the neighborhood that had a handwritten sign in front reading “Private Drum Lessons – $20/hr” with a phone number to call. Of course, I called. The following week I showed up for my first drum lesson. I sure hoped it would be fun.

“So who do you like listening to?”

“Um, well…I like The Beatles, Boston, Led Zeppelin, Journey, and Rush,” I said, “to name a few.”

“Wow. What song are you listening to now?”

“‘Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey.”

“Wanna learn to play that?”

“Yes!”

Arvin knew how to make learning and music enjoyable. Throughout the year that I took lessons from him, I learned the rudiments of drumming, but it was all in the context of songs I listened to and wanted to learn to play. By the time Arvin recommended a book for learning the basic rudiments, I was more than ready. I had built a foundation and desire to learn more as my skills had grown. All of this was due to Arvin. He provided me with information and the ability to apply it, but in the context of a fun environment where learning and work were exciting, refreshing, and gratifying.  

Fun

Industries have been catching onto this idea of fun as a success catalyst more and more. For example, in a 2005 paper, Kurt Squire extolled the virtues of game-based learning:

…games are much more powerful; they provide situated experiences in which players are immersed in complex, problem solving tasks. Good games teach players more than just facts; they provide ways of seeing and understanding problems and, critically, supply opportunities to “become” different kinds of people. 


Game-Based Learning: An x-Learn Perspective Paper, 2005, An x-Learn Perspective Paper supported by a grant from the e-Learning CONSORTIUM, Kurt Squire, PhD., University of Wisconsin-Madison, page 4.

Let me make one thing clear, I believe the idea of mandatory fun in the workplace is necessary. What I am not advocating is a top-down approach where fun is dictated, and everyone feels forced to take part. What I am advocating is that fun be part of the culture you create, where you and employees can generate ideas, play, and gamify work as a means to increase morale and enhance productivity. My idea of “mandatory fun” is where leadership values fun as a motivational factor in work and labors toward making it part of the culture. A more recent study came to this same conclusion. Ethan Mollick and Nancy Rothbard of the University of Pennsylvania, The Wharton School Management Department, published a paper stating:

…games that are imposed by management require worker consent in a way that games generated organically by workers do not. In our field experiment, we find that games, when consented to, increase positive affect at work, but, when consent is lacking, decrease positive affect. 


Ethan Mollick and Nancy Rothbard, “Mandatory Fun: Consent, Gamification and the Impact of Games at Work,” abstract (Management Department, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, 2014), 39, https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2277103.

A culture of imposed fun is not the goal. A culture where fun is valued and encouraged is the goal. This involves everyone and is endorsed by leadership—not as a means to get out of work, but as a way to generate positivity and consequently, innovative solutions that differentiate you from competitors.

Are you having fun at work? Let me know in the comments below why or why you are not having fun.

Photo by Josh Sorenson from Pexels