Junkyard Golf at Southwest - cont'd

Remember when I wrote about how a training group at Southwest Airlines tried out a game of Junkyard Golf? Well, you have an exceptional memory. That was more than 4 years ago.

Recently, there was a post on the Southwest Airlines Blog - "Nuts about Southwest" in which we learn that they've been using their own particular version of Junkyard Golf ever since! Here's how the post starts:
"We've all heard the age-old expression: 'When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.' But what about PVC pipes, plastic cups, fuzzy doodads, and other random tchotchkes found in any office setting? They too can be repurposed for a higher calling. In this case, it happens to be for the annual weekend of 'Camp Culture' for the MIT (Managers in Training) Level II training class here in Dallas."
I must say - yes, I apparently really must - if the business training relevance of the Junkyard pudding still needs proof, here, then, it is. For even more, see this in the nevertheless much-respected Handbook of Structured Experiences.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Flow on Flying Rings

Here, from the American Public Media show Speaking of Faith, people who like to play on the flying rings in Santa Monica's muscle beach give a near-word-for-word description of the flow-fun connection.

Watch them, listen to them, as they shed light on delight.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Fun's Fun, part two - More or Less

On the other hand, sometimes a thing that you do for fun isn't as much fun as it used to be, and some other times it's more fun than you remember it ever being before.

After several tours around the park near my son's house, discussing why it is that some things seem like more fun than others, we came to the conclusion that it has less to do with the fun of the thing in itself, but more with how much fun we're finding in it at the time.

We could at the time be finding a lot of fun in, for example, just walking together, father and son, in the relative peace and loving relationship in which we are finding each other, on this remarkably warm day in this lovely little park in Jerusalem, while there's no war in Gaza. On the other hand, we were finding at least as much fun talking about fun, in the conversation, in the intimacy of shared thought. It's not that the talk was in itself more fun than the walk. It's just that it was in the talk and in the walk that we were finding the fun.

The fun of the walk, on Csikszentmihalyi's chart, was something closer to what I've been calling minor fun. It's fun. It can be great fun. But talking, conversing, being in dialog, is higher on the flow channel. It can become far more complex, far more demanding, require far more of our minds and hearts. But, again, walking is not necessarily more fun than talking - when they're really fun, walking or talking, they're really fun - one just as really, as deeply, as totally as the other, separately or together. The same being true of mountain climbing and daydreaming, giving or getting a massage.

The thing about the kinds of fun you find in different positions in the flow channel is not that one is more fun than the other, but that each is the kind of fun you can get more or less of yourself and the world into - the kind of fun that can amuse you or challenge you to the very edge of all your vast abilities; the kind of fun that can lead you to regaining, or losing your very life.

Which, when you think about it, is something - depending on how much fun you are having, and what moment of the world you find yourself in - you could also say about talking and walking with your son in a park in Jerusalem.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Fun's Fun

My son and I were on one of our rare and most delicious walks through Jerusalem, when we got to talking about fun and flow and the connections and differences, not only between fun and flow, but also between the various kinds of fun, the degrees of flow. The more we walked and the further we walked, the clearer we were both able to get, at least about how I see the connections and degrees of it all.

Looking at a relatively simplistic image of flow as described in this article about the implications of flow on the nature of design, or a more recent, and more complex chart from an article about flow in the workplace, it's natural to conclude that among the various forms of flow, there are those which are "higher" and more fun, and those which are "lower," and not so much fun. Like, for example, watching TV, when it's fun, is not really as high or as good or as complete fun as skiing down a mountain, when it is fun.

Fact is, at least as I understand it, fun is fun. Fun is flow. And flow is flow, no matter how high or low it is in the channel. There are the apparently nobler kinds of flow, like those surgeons sometimes experience. And there are the oft-derided baser, more immediately accessible kinds, like those experienced by people who chew or smoke for fun. There are forms of flow that seem more like fun, like riding a roller coaster, and forms of fun that seem less like flow, like collecting stamps. But the whole point is that when chewing gum is fun, it's just as much fun as bungee jumping - when bungee jumping is fun. That's the big contribution of this whole idea of flow. Rock climbing or rock dancing, the joy, when it's joyful, is just as joyous, just as all-embracing, just as time- and mind-transcendent.

And what we were able to conclude in our most fun and flowful walk of ours was this: For me, flow is fun. And fun is fun. My playful path is not at all about having deeper fun, or looking for fun that's more major, or trying to identify the particular flavor of fun that is most profoundly and deliciously flow-like. It's about finding the kinds of fun that are fun for me, whatever they are - the kinds that are most reliably, most deeply, most thoroughly fun - and having them, living them, entirely, whenever I can, for however long they are fun for me. And most often, it appears to me that those kinds of fun tend to be the kinds of fun I can share with you, my son, and you, too, my cherished reader.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Giving Fun

Play PumpsA week or so ago, at the benevolent prompting of my son, I added a new advertising section to my blog, called "FUNsponsored Ads." These are ads for things I personally happen to believe in - sponsored, as it were, by my sense of, well, fun. I don't get paid for them. Nobody's counting clicks. But it makes me feel good to know that I've been able to somehow further the good fortune of what seem to me to be "good" things.

The FUNsponsored Ads section currently features three organizations. (You can find them - and soon other sites of similar ilk - by clicking here). Each of these sites demonstrates a different approach to helping people do good. They are all fund-raising efforts. But they are also somehow fun.

One site allows you to give smal loans to people who really need them - loans without interest, personal loans to people who are genuinely trying to improve their lives and their world. People you can believe in. It works, because it's more fun to give to people than it is to give to institutions. It makes it personal, even though, if you choose, you can remain anonymous. And they're just loans. Acts, not so much of generosity as of trust.

Another offers you the opportunity to give other people the opportunity to give charity - a gift of giving, you might say. In a way, it's the ultimate charitable act, giving others the chance to be charitable - for free.

Yet another lets you bring a fun technology - a playground toy - that in turn brings clean water to villages whose very lives depend on it. The toy itself is fun. It's fun to see people having fun. It's fun to know that that the fun you are helping to give people is constructive, meaningful, healing.

Each tells us something about the art of fund raising. Each honors the fun inherent in giving. Each invites fun as much as it invites giving.

Too often, the people who are involved in trying to raise funds get a little too desperate. They send out pleas, they cajole, they beg, they try to make you feel obligated, to make you feel that if you don't give, you're somehow a bad person. But giving is not about being "good." Giving is about fun. It's a kind of fun, I guess you might even say "flavor" of fun, that feels good all by itself. It feels good when you get thanked. It feels better when no one even knows you're the one that gave them that gift of health or sustenance or promise.

For the fund raiser, each of these sites represents an approach that honors the fun of giving. Each seems like fun, looks like fun, feels like fun, and yet each is clearly about charitable acts. They're not about dinners or auctions or raffle tickets. They're about the joy that comes with giving joy.

Now that times are hard, now that giving is even more desparately needed, it's these invitations to fun, these initiatives that are sensitive to what makes giving so much fun, from which we all have the most to learn, the most to gain.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Ask not what fun does for you...

"Ask not what fun does for you.
Ask what you do for fun."

- Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


The Fun Also Rises

This is not an easy place for me to be, not an easy time. In Jerusalem, at a time of war. Where people like the very people I love, like my very own family, are just as convinced as they are of God, that this war is necessary, justified, just.

Just like in Gaza. Just like in America.

It is an especially hard time and place for me to be talking to people, even the people who love me, who are blood-deep connected to me, about fun. Such a weak, silly thing to believe in, to teach about, compared to the dead seriousness of things like war. Bill Moyers has a very clear and moving essay about all this, about being here, Arab, American, Israeli, Iraqi, so very far beyond fun.

Yet, I'm finding people here who want to know about making things fun again, some of them, even desperately. I'll be meeting with the one of the principals of one of the schools called "Hand in Hand," where Arab parents and Israeli parents, together with Arab teachers and Israeli teachers are not letting the fun stop. I've had meetings with visionaries and entrepreneurs at PresenTense, with business leaders and soon with fund raisers and laughter therapists - Israelis, all of whom somehow believe that it can be, has to be, more fun than this.

It's funny, in a way. Here, at the borders of sanity, just where the fun stops, it leaks through. Here, hidden from the press of fear, from the din and clamor of hate, just like life does from death, the fun also rises.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Searching for Playfulness - everywhere

If you've been following my Delicious FUN bookmarks (as everso conveniently echoed in the Delicious FUN widget, as everso wisely installed by my everso increasingly appreciated son), you've undoubtedly noticed my current investigation of sites using the term "playful" and "playfulness" and even "playfulness training." It has been a rather, if you'll excuse the expression "delicious" search, leading me to some remarkable people and a remarkably wide range of applications of those terms to things like pet care and interactive design.

The reason for my renewed interest in these terms are all quite personal. I've come to a time in my life in which I can begin devoting more of my energy to developing my own sense of playfulness - in pursuing, with more devotion, my own Playful Path.

My awakening to this need has been stimulated by my sojourn in Israel, where the dead seriousness of the war has reached into the very soul of a war-weary country; by the wonderful conversations I've been having with my son about the connections between his growing faith in Judaism and my continued belief in fun, and especially by the freedom I've been given to notice those times when I could be having more fun - times with my grandchildren, their parents, my wife; times alone, just walking around Jerusalem - much more fun.

I have written a great deal about this idea of the Playful Path. When I released the most recent edition of The Well-Played Game, I gave it the subtitle: A Playful Path to Wholeness. But, after some remarkably deep conversation with my son, it became clear that I might have the most success in my search for fun by focusing not so much on playfulness, or the web, or even on the depths of the deep fun of flow, but on the experience I have called Minor Fun - those everyday invitations to enjoyment that come with the breezes, the smiles, the touches of love, the play and interplay of shadows.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Play and Game Communities

There are at least two different communities that form in support of playing together - one is what you might call a "game community," the other a "play community."

Every game and sport that becomes a cultural institution forms a community, a game community, and members of that community have only one thing in common, but very much in common Ė the particular game being played.

When you are part of a game community that comes together for a poker night, a game with the girls, or a cockfight, to some clear degree, itís the mastery of that game that keeps you involved. At some point, your proficiency at the game, or at what you do in support of the game, determines your place in the game community. Winning is good. Winning a lot is better. In other words, to some clear degree, itís the game that determines if youíre good enough to be part of that community.

In a play community, itís the players, you and everyone youíre playing with, who determine whether the game is good enough. If itís not, you change it. You change something about the rules, or you discover a hitherto unknown variation, or you play something entirely else. Itís you who determines if the game is good enough.

Most informal games - street games, pick-up games, playground games Ė are played by a play community. Most formal games, like Little League and Lawn Bowling, are played by a game community.

Commercial and historical forces tend to embrace game communities, and vice versa. Little League and Lawn Bowling are not just games, they are cultural events, they are sports.

Ultimately, the majority of people arenít good enough to participate in the kinds of games played by game communities, especially when compared to the skills of the masters and grandmasters of the game.

Ultimately in the play community, everyone is good enough. Because itís not any particular game that people have come together to play. Because the reason they have come together is to play, not necessarily to win, or even to keep score, but to play together, and be part of an event in which anyone can play, in which everyone is a master.

In the play community itís mystery, not mastery that draws people together Ė itís the mystery of shared imagination, of spontaneity and synergy, of generalized laughter and much mutual admiration, of shared fun.

When children are young, they first form play communities, and usually, if they can avoid formal intervention, theyíll continue expanding and diversifying the play communities they support and that support them well into adulthood.

It is no coincidence that the Internet, though it serves both kinds of community (play and game), is so easily characterized as a play community, dependent on openness and trust shared by its players, succeeding to the degree in which it can respond to their constantly evolving, individual and collective interests.

Most often, game communities share characteristics with play communities, and vice versa. In both, members show mutual respect for play - for supporting fantasy, keeping rules, observing boundariesÖ

People who come together for a "friendly game" - the weekly mahj game with the girls - are not about winning. What, you can win maybe $2.00. Theyíre about being with other people who know the game just about as well as they do, well-enough not to take it too seriously.

Once you've identified the principle members of a game community, it becomes more and more like a play community. Even to the point of changing rules. Itís not about the game any more. Weíre all good enough.

The same is true at chess clubs and bridge clubs. Those community members who are good enough get together to play for fun.

The rewards of participation in a game community are often highly tangible Ė statues and money even. Those for a play community are the experience of community itself, of affinity, membership, acceptance, mutuality, respect, appreciation.

Christopher Alan Raynolds (paraphrasing Huizinga) writes: "The sense in a play communityÖ(is) so powerful that the community outlasts the game."

Florence M. Hetzle and Austin H. Kutscher, in their book, get this, "Philosophical Aspects of Thanatology," write: "the primary interest of a person in a play community is in each other as persons; they are concerned to affirm each other in the uniqueness of oneís existence."

See also Patricia Anne Masters, "The Philadelphia Mummers: Building Community through Play," Temple University Press, 2007

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Talking about fun in Jerusalem, cont'd

Charlie Kalech arranged for me to meet with some of his clients and colleagues today to conduct a short symposium on The Fun of Work. Needless to say, a fun and deep dialogue ensued.

The highlight, naturally, was when we played a game. The game: Tabletop Biathlon, of course. (What you might call "Tabletop Olympics" when played with two teams. I've come to regard this game as one of my personal best. Every time I play it, I learn something else about fun and work and people and life and stuff.)

Pictured here is Charlie, sitting next to a waste basket, holding a paper airplane and a paper ball - the key elements of one of the two sports developed for the Tabletop Biathlon. Both events (the other, business card bowling) were exactly what I had hoped they would be - innovative, a bit silly, and most definitely fun. The paper airplane game involved trying to throw a paper airplane into the basket, whilst opposing athletes tried to knock it away with paper balls. It is today's featured game because it was developed in Israel. The connections to current Israeli events are too obvious to point out. And the subsequent laughter too profound to convey.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Talking about fun in Jerusalem, part one

This is not an easy time to talk about fun in Jerusalem, especially now, given Gaza. Nevertheless, like most Israelis, there's an implicit agreement - not to ignore the war, but to go on with life as usual, given what passes for usualness here.

So I've been meeting with a rather random collection of people who responded to my son's posts appearing in several local social networking sites about my Israeli sojourn. In these posts my son mentioned that I'd be in the area, without any particular agenda, ready to talk with anyone who was interested in fun.

Last week, I gave a brief presentation at what I was to discover was a remarkable Coworking environment called "PresenTense" - remarkable, not only because it was a genuine Coworking environment (a well-equipped facility in which high-tech nomads can get connected in as many ways as they see fit, online and off), but even more remarkable because it is the same organization that also publishes a magazine devoted to bringing together the stubbornly fragmented poles of the Israeli community. And even more remarkable because of my involvement with something alo called Coworking, and my ongoing commitment to building community through play. The connections were too many and too profound to ignore. We had a wonderfully challenging conversation about fun - spontaneous, responsive, surprisingly deep - talking about things like the psychology of flow, the connections between the play community and the work community, and how to deal, in a fun way, with a boy friend who won't help with the dishes.

One of the participants, a man named Charlie Kalech, wrote a blog post, reflecting on our conversation. His post is wonderfully reflective, and sensitive, and I leave you with it, for the fun of it. I meet tomorrow with Charlie and a group of executives for further explorations of fun and work, via a game of Junkyard Olympics. More about that later.

P.S. - that game that Charlie played with his employees, I remember playing that before at NASAGA - it was really a remarkable experience. Do you happen to know where that game comes from?

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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