"The secret to great work is great play"

"Bringing a spirit of play to work," writes Garr Reynolds in his post The secret to great work is great play,"...improves learning and stimulates creative thinking. But often it's good to play for no other reason than to have great fun and feel good and recharged... We can find inspiration in play itself, and we are inspired by those teachers and managers who understand that play is too important not to bring to work."

"A spirit of play," he continues, "engages us and brings us into the content and into the moment. Children remind us that we need more play in the classroom, in the lecture hall, and especially in the typical conference presentation. But first we adults must give up the notion that play is not serious. We must abandon the notion that work (or study) and play are opposites. Work and play are inexorably linked, at least the kind of creative work in which we are engaged today and hope to prepare our children for. As Bill Buxton likes to say, 'These things are far too important to take seriously. We need to be able to play.'"

Read on and on. This is an useful and inspiring post - useful to all of us who care about the quality of work and play in our lives - followed by equally useful and inspring comments.


Tape Measure Mastery

Here's further evidence of the play/work connection. The mastery this guy has developed that led to these feats of tape measure magic comes as much from his need to: 1) have fun, and 2) keep engaged in his work.

via J-Walk Blog

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Matress Dominoes

Here's a clip that will make you:
1. laugh
2. want to work in a mattress company
3. experience something akin to astonished respect for the mattress domino-endorsing mattress company management
4. think about the fun you could be making your work into

via Humor That Works

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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101 Ways to Create Humor at Work

Working work humorist Drew Tarvin has come up with a significantly useful resource for those of us who can still see reasons to bring light to the dark of the working day. He calls it 101 Ways to Create Humor at Work. I exemplify:
12. Lock-in Inspiration: Create easy-to-remember, hard-to-hack, inspirational passwords.
13. Pump It Up: Get energized for the day by listening to some of your favorite songs on your commute to work.
14. Rock It Out: Create a playlist of fast paced rock music or equivalent; listen to it while doing less than exciting work.
15. Listen Closely: Listen to classical music when you are required to concentrate on one task.
16. Address Yourself: Write a letter to yourself highlighting where you want to be in 3, 6, 12 months and include a silly joke.
17. Motivate: Get a motivational poster.
18. Laugh-tivate: Get a de-motivational poster.
19. Picture the Good Stuff: Get a digital picture frame and fill it with pictures of your friends and family.
Even if you don't do any of these things, this is a bookmark-worthy page. It will remind you that you have the choice. Which is what it's all about, no, yes? The choice. Choosing to have fun. To laugh. Even though.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


For hunter-gatherer societies work IS play

In the fifth in a series of articles, intriguingly called Play Makes Us Human, Dr. Peter Gray muses about Why Hunter-Gatherers Work is Play. Like all the articles in the series, Dr. Grey's analysis is thought-provoking and well-informed. In exploring what hunter-gatherer societies think of as work, Dr. Gray writes:
In general, hunter-gatherers do not have a concept of toil. When they do have that concept, it derives apparently from their contact with outsiders. They may learn a word for toil to refer to the work of their neighboring farmers, miners, or road construction workers, but they do not apply it to their own work. Their own work is simply an extension of children's play. Children play at hunting, gathering, hut construction, tool making, meal preparations, defense against predators, birthing, infant care, healing, negotiation, and so on and so on; and gradually, as their play become increasingly skilled, the activities become productive. The play becomes work, but it does not cease being play. It may even become more fun than before, because the productive quality helps the whole band and is valued by all.
Dr. Gray reaches some conclusions about hunter-gatherer ideas of work which could prove very powerful in helping cybercitizens redefine the work-play connection:
  • Hunter-Gatherers' Work is Playful Because It is Varied and Requires Much Skill, Knowledge, and Intelligence.
  • Hunter-Gatherers' Work is Playful Because There Isn't too Much of It.
  • Hunter-Gatherers' Work is Playful Because It Is Done in a Social Context, with Friends.
  • Hunter-Gatherers' Work is Playful Because Each Person Can Choose When, How, and Whether to Do It.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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As work sustains us, fun sustains our work

For people in the US, Labor Day commemorates our more or less continued victory in what is at heart a heart-breaking struggle. For centuries, we have been trying to protect laborers from being abused by the people who hire them. And these efforts seem especially heart-breaking today, because for the remarkably many who don't have work, it sometimes seems that tolerating the abuse is a better alternative.

On Labor Day, having fun at work is one of the last things we tend to think about. We think about having work. And we think about getting paid. And we think about getting benefits. And we dream about our once closely-held illusions of things like job security and company loyalty. But not about fun.

And yet, as much as work can sustain us, fun sustains our work.

I've created my own small glut of articles about the fun-work connection. I've been interviewed about it, analyzed it, researched it. I've found others who have made the same connection: Arvind Devalia, Chief Happiness Officer Alexander Kjerulf, and my friend of more than 30 years Matt Weinstein, co-author of Work Like Your Dog.

And, hopefully, now I've found you, who, on this day commemorating the victories and ongoing struggles between labor and management, also affirm the struggle for work sustains us and that we can sustain - work that is as fun as it is profitable.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Facial Tissues that Care - from Trader Joe's - via Bruce Willilamson

Bruce Williamson writes:
"I have always appreciated the whimsy, fun, and general laid-backness that I feel whenever I shop at Trader Joe's. So I was not really surprised but rather delighted when I recently discovered this redesign of their standard tissue box. It just impressed the heck out of me. I mean it's a box of tissues, right? But someone, somewhere within that corporation decided to have a bit of fun with something that is totally invisible and non-consequential to most people, and this was the result! It's almost like reading a funny series of greeting cards. Some might say it's trivial, but I maintain that nothing is trivial that gives a person even a momentary smile, laugh, or enjoyment of someone else's wacky sense of humor."
See this

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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Professional Fun

Professional fun tastes a little bit like candy-coated beef jerky. When you first bite into it, it's sweet. I mean, swwwwwweet! And crunchy. Gritty, even. And once you're at the jerky part, it's tough enough to chew on for a very long time. Enough to keep you, as advertised, occupied. Occupied, in fact, with a certain full, meaty, droolworthy flavor.

Getting paid to play. That's what it's all about, isn't it. And that's what they get - all those actors and musicians and athletes and surgeons - paid to play. Paid to have fun - well, a certain kind of fun. Professional fun. Responsible, focused, skilled, well-trained fun.

See also my article on Playing and Getting Paid, my FunCast on the aforementioned, and my collection of articles on the Fun/Work connections.

Every one of us who has experienced fun professionally, whether playfully or dangerously, knows exactly what professional fun tastes like: Candy coated beef jerky.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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"But when you have fun, it really doesn't seem like a job any more."

"What is the greatest lesson you have learned in your career?" the interviewer asks Dinger D. Dragon, mascot for the Fort Wayne Wizards.

"Have fun at work," replies Dinger, "especially in my line of work … it’s hard not to have a fun time at work. But when you have fun, it really doesn't seem like a job any more."

So, if it doesn't seem like a job, maybe it isn't.

Because the whole idea of calling something a "job" is to help you remember that it's not something you do for fun.

That should be your first warning. That should make it obvious that of all the things you need to be having in your fun-loving life, a job is maybe not one. Work maybe probably yes. A job. Maybe definitely not.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Tabletop Sailboarding

As inventor of the Junkyard Sports TableTop Olympics and in my capacity as Bernie DeKoven, Junkmaster, I hereby award the creators of Tabletop Sailboarding permanent position in the Junkyard Sports Hall of Games .

California Parks and Recreation SocietyIt was at the CPRS 2008, Long Beach conference . And I was facilitating a bit of Tabletop Olympics amongst 5 tables of people who run parks and games all throughout California.

Many most remarkable Tabletop Olympics moments were shared. Many, many events of noteworthy notability and truly silly competitiveness. But there was this one table (I really like to learn your names if you were a tablemate) that happened to have, amongst its various shared personal treasures, some significant conference swag. Namely: a couple battery-operated hand-held fans, and some Lego pieces, and a fingerboard. And they put their stuff together to create a well, Tabletop Sailboard, I guess is what you'd call something made out of the fingerboard, a couple Lego pieces, a toothpick and a scrap of paper. And their Olympic Event was a hand-held-fan-powered Tabletop Sailboard event that proved to be at least as funny as it was demanding of Olympic-like concentration and skill.

Fingerboard SailingBehold, therefore you beholder, the Tabletop Sailboard, as fuzzily photographed on the right. Whilst beholding below the slightly less fuzzy image of a Tabletop Sailor in action.
man blowing fingerboard sailboard with handheld fan
Now and forevermore embedded in the virtual bedrock of Tabletop Olympics History.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Escalating Office-isms

Here's a sample:

Player 1: "Were you at this morning’s meeting? I thought John’s action items were highly questionable."

Player 2: "That is so true! I was just telling Nigel the other day that we need to stay focused on our mission statement."

Player 1: "We could all learn from Linda’s example. Her action items are so dynamic!"

Player 2: "She needs to work together with Arthur on the project; we need to bring our resources together to maximize our synergy."

See "Escalating Office-isms" for the rest.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Coworkers of the World, Rejoice!

You, you Coworkers of the World your very selves, yes, you who are assembled together online, you, the very people this is about.

You are the people connected in these words at this moment, virtually here because you want to be connected, because it’s fun.

And, a short paragraph later, you are still here - because you are still having fun reading something about yourself, and maybe even each other.

At any moment, you could disappear, leaving barely a trace, if you so willed. Not an email address, not a URL or even a user name.

You are the Coworkers. You are the connected ones. You are the ones making connections.

You write together, make music together, chat together, you email and blog, you text and twitter. Because you like it. You like the work you do, online, face- even to-face. You like the conversations you co-create, you like working the way you like working with the people you like working, uh, with.

You work the way you like working, where you like working, when you like working, wearing what you like. You work with people the way you like working with people. You like working. You have fun working. You like yourselves.

And even though any one of you could pop, like a bubble, disappear like a magician, you are reliable as rocks, oh yeah, uh-huh. Could hang up. Change avatars. Block email. Instead you are prolifically productive, remarkably reliable. Even though at any time you can any or all of you go pop.

You communicate, you collaborate, you coliberate. You are free and work freely with each other. Each of you freeing the other, each of you making it possible for each of you to work at our best.

You are the new generation, the regeneration of hope for work and worker and workplace. Because you have fun. Because you work better.

You are the workers of the web. You are the Coworkers, Rejoice!

You have the access, you use the access, you create access for others.

You are the workplace. And many of you do it for free. It’s so much fun doing it, so somehow rewarding, and it’s real work, Internet-enabled. You who blog and twitter and share photos, videos, documents, desktops.

So much fun is this workplace that many of you pay to work here.

This way.


Writing, reading, making intangible things together for each other. Movies and slide shows and blogs and For free. For fun. For real.

So rejoice, I say. Rejoice in your place in the placeless presence. Rejoice. Rejoice. Intrepid, interdependent, international, Coworker that you are.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


World's first Junkyard Sports® Tabletop Olympics

Junkyard Olympics HighdiveIt was 2007. October 11. The morning of. Let's say mid-morning. In Atlanta. At the North American Simulation and Gaming Association conference. During my workshop, during which I had planned to spend 90 minutes exploring the various learning ramifications of what I somewhat blithely referred to as: The Junkyard Sports Paradigm.

Because it was NASAGA , and because the people who had registered for my workshop had listened to my keynote and were still planning to come, I found myself inspired enough to want to try something brand new - something I had thought about for many a month, but hadn't as yet actually tried.

And thus was held the world's first Junkyard Sports® Tabletop Olympics.

We had three groups of about 5 players each. Each group was seated around a banquet-worthy round table (officially called a "round").

Their assignment: using whatever you can find in your pocket or purse or elsewhere, create a miniature, tabletop, Olympic-like event.

What you are seeing in this photo is one such event - the High Dive Ski-Jump. The Jumper/Diver (a.k.a. "quarter") is being coached by participant Dave Matte to roll between the two blockish objects (hence kept on edge, so to speak), down the notebook-like ramp, hopefully to land in the glass of water. Yes, some points were awarded for hitting the glass or chair, even. A second team-member, the Jumper/Diver retriever, stood off camera, waiting to catch the rolling quarter before it reached the floor, for that critical extra point.

High JumpThis was, as you have so intuitively grasped, but one of a minor Olympic myraid of tabletop events, such as, for example, the High Cup Jump, depicted here. Unfortunately, so enraptured were we with our collective cleverness and so deeply impressed by our finger-powered feats of athletic prowess, that we forgot to take any other pictures. And so, the memory fades. The world's first Olympic Croquet game, for example - played with many coins and paperclips and things, simultaneously, in the round - now, despite lingering echoes of all that laughter, partly remembered, partly imagined.

Yes, yes, I wax poetic. Because the Junkyard Sports Tabletop Olympics is everyrthing I had hoped it would be, more than I could possibly have dreamed it would become. An invitation to laughter and teamwork, to creativity and sharing, to surprise and appreciation. Regardless of position, age, gender, family, nationality. And all you need is whatever you have. Pocket junk. A table. People to play with.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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"Are We Having Fun Yet?"

Before you click to read this article, the one called "Are We Having Fun Yet," - the one written by Matt Labash of The Weekly Standard - you should know that the subtitle is: "The infantilization of corporate America."

Basically, Labash pans the whole idea of fun-at-work. At least "the 'coercive fun,' the forced-march through the land of clenched-teeth joviality that so often takes place under the dreaded guise of 'team -building.'" His arguments are literate and powerful, and one finds oneself having to agree with the lad, especially about the coercive thing, fun-wise.

Labash is obviously having his own sort of fun, at fun's expense, of course. He writes: "If you thought there were only 301 Ways to Have Fun at Work, as suggested by the smash book that's been translated into 10 languages, then you're shortchanging yourself, because technically, there are 602 ways, according to the follow-up, 301 More Ways to Have Fun at Work. Using examples culled from real companies in real office parks throughout America, the authors suggest using fun as 'an organizational strategy--a strategic weapon to achieve extraordinary results' by training your people to learn the 'fun-damentals' so as 'to create fun-atics' (most funsultants appear to be paid by the pun)."

However, just in case you think he's simply having fun being funny about fun (he really is a very clever sort), try this: "Like a diseased appendix bursting and spreading infectious bacteria throughout the abdomen, fun is insinuating itself everywhere, into even the un-hippest workplaces."

I am not sure that such pun-pounding punches to the comedic kidneys of consulting corporate kidders are really necessary. I'm thinking that the people that are managing to bring fun into the corridors and carrels of the workplace are more like Emergency Services, bringing oxygen to an institution that is gasping for breath, an oppressive, fear-driven institution, mistakingly called "work."

Take us, for example, you, in particular. What are you doing reading this long article from someone who calls himself a "funsmith?" You are "having fun, yet," aren't you? You're doing something that interests you, that makes you feel intelligent, that makes you think. You're thinking, and maybe learning something, and maybe thinking about all the other links there are to visit. So much to learn. So many connections to make. So much real work to do. So much like real work should be. So much fun.

via Bill Harris

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Labor Day, offices, and freedom

I received an email from my friend and coworker in the Netherlands - Gerrit Visser. Inspired by a confluence of circumstance - his thoughts about the possibilities for changing office culture, Labor Day, a long exchange we've been having about coworking, coliberation, and the like - I wrote the following:

It doesn't take long for us to figure out why we want to change office culture. Or even what we want to change about it. We sit at our desks, sickened by fear and mistrust, by pettiness and isolation. Well-reasoned fear and mistrust. We are asked to be loyal to organizations that repeatedly demonstrate their lack of loyalty to us. Systemic pettiness and isolation. Where we are divided into cubicles and carrels. Where we spend hours drinking the dregs of envy for those who get bigger windows and better parking spaces.

Here, in the States, it's Labor Day. As we battle our way across the freeways towards a spot on the beach, we devote at least some small part of our awareness to the memories of how bad it has been, this experience of labor, of working for a living. How violent and oppressive and corrupt it once was, this whole thing between bosses and those that are bossed. And we think ourselves fortunate, we workers, that today's violence, oppression and corruption is, for most of us, a far more subtle phenomenon - though equally as thorough.

It's that very subtlety and thoroughness that makes it so difficult for us to think about change. We have learned even to mistrust each other, to be afraid even of ourselves. So we don't know, really, how to make it better. So huge and vague is the culture of the office place, so profound and permeating that we are tempted to believe that we, ourselves, are not qualified enough to change anything.

Perhaps we aren't. Not as long as we are part of that culture. Not as long as we find ourselves inside. Which is why I place my faith in the outsiders - those who work outside the walls and halls of industry. In the people who are reinventing work, on maybe an hourly basis. The outsiders who work by phone and fax, computer and Internet, people who meet in coffee houses and kitchens, online, via computer. The outsiders who work together without bosses to tell them how to work.

Instead of changing office culture, they are creating an alternative. An alternative that is not driven by fear, but by commitment. Not by mistrust, but by a belief in themselves, in each other, in their ability, together, to find and create meaningful work. They are the ones who are changing the very definition of office culture, just as they are changing the very nature of work.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Independents Hall

The now international Coworking movement has its origins in coffee shops and wifi hotspots, where people go to work away from work, so to speak, as it were.

In an article about the newly opened Coworking venue Independents Hall ("Independents Hall," get it? Not Independence, but Independents! In Philadelphia itself, see. Gotta love it.), the Philadelphia Inquirer reporter, Jane M. Von Bergen, has one of the best descriptions of the concept I've read so far: "Think of co-working as an entrepreneurial version of parallel play," she writes, "with owners of their own small businesses working side by side in a drop-in place that looks like a coffee cafe, minus the barista, with all the accoutrements of what's hip: high ceilings, beer fridge, pool table and Internet access." Parallel play, in deed!

She quotes Daniel H. Pink, author of Free Agent Nation:
"I think when people work at home they have to come up with new ways to interact with people...They miss one of the joys and banes of being in an office - the interruptions, the inadvertent contact on the way to the bathroom that sometimes leads to interesting ideas...Co-working gives a set of colleagues who will interrupt them on the way to the bathroom."
Alex Hillman, developer and organizer of Independents Hall, also has a quoteworthy line describing his life before he initiated this Coworking endeavor, after he left his job as a web designer: "Three months working at my house, I was talking to the cat, and I don't even have a cat. I was going crazy without the socializing."

In corresponding with Alex about the establishment of his brilliantly-named Independents Hall, he comments: "The one thing that...Jane missed out on is that we built the community FIRST. Nine months of meetup events and grass roots outreach were done before we thought about signing a lease. That community drives this organization, and that is the key to our success so far. I don't want anyone to think we sprung up overnight (ok, 6-9 months IS pretty fast) BUT, I'm also not solely responsible for it. Everyone has contributed, by becoming a street-team for the concept of bringing coworking to Philadelphia."

Yes, in deed, community is key to coworking.

I highly recommend these kinds of coworking initiatives, and have written about their virtues extensively in my Coworking Visions column.

To get a better understanding of what a Coworking facility is all about, take a look at Alex's video tour of Independents Hall.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


1000 ways to waste working time

In answer to the question, how, oh how can I waste some more time while at work, here's 1000 ways to waste working time, which I, given me, would re-title: "1000 ways to refresh the soul and rekindle the spirit while at work."

Let me exemplify, numerically speaking, by selecting the first ten:
  1. Approach someone at work you don't know and say hello
  2. Add up a series of numbers your social security number, your date of birth, your telephone number, to see if the total is divisible by seven
  3. Add up your debts
  4. Annoy a friend
  5. Argue with a colleague about who is the best football quarterback ever
  6. Arm wrestle with a colleague
  7. Arrange a protest march for a cause you believe in
  8. Arrange a seating plan for the office
  9. Arrange to meet a friend in the washroom to chat
  10. Arrange unpaid bills by date order
Which leaves you with 990 more still to read. In fact, not to be overly meta, but there are at least 1001 ways to rekindle the spirit while at work herein illustrated, the additional one being the reading of the list. And, should you need yet further inspiration, you perhaps could even do more spirit rekindling, seeing if you can come up with working time wasters not already on the list.

via In4mador

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Art, play and survival

"This took me about an hour or so constructed of paper, an eraser, packing tape and paperclips. I used a sprite bottle to take the green shot of the dragon."

From Artwork from the Workplace - a living, blogish testimony to the survival value of playfulness at work.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Visions of Coworking

This is a story of a collaboration about collaboration.

Gerrit Visser and I have been working together, fairly intensely, especially for the last few months. Gerrit is one of the foremost "cybrarians" (a term coined by Howard Rheingold) - a chronicler of collaborative technologies and initiatives. More than a decade ago, he and I began working together on a site called "CoWorking." I had conceived of CoWorking as an extension of my work with Technography. Technography relies on the skills of a computer-proficient facilitator. Coworking envisions collaboration in an environment where those skills are generalized - where every individual in the collaboration can take over the keyboard on behalf of the whole group.

Fortunately, this environment has materialized, in many ways. Virtual teams taking advantage of online meeting technologies, chat, phone, instant messaging, etc., have become masters of technology and social processes. Most recently, Chris Messina and Tara Hunt have been instrumental in launching the Coworking Movement - an international effort to provide physical environments that are conducive to the needs of the wireless coworker.

About three months ago, Gerrit invited me to add what he perceived as being a needed perspective to all this. He'd send me a link to some story he found on the web - something he thought would benefit from what I have come to understand as coworking. And I'd send him my heartfelt. And so began Coworking Visions.

Since then, our relationship as friends and coworkers has grown more and more empowering, deeper, more deeply satisfying. We are learning from each other at a startling pace. I've found myself with more and more to say - with things to say that I've wanted to say for years, and only now am finding a reason to say them. More importantly, I've found myself a coworker - a friend, a resource, someone I respect and rejoice with, someone who can bring the best out of me, all the way from Holland to here.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


The master in the art of living...

The master in the art of living

makes little distinction between

his work and his play,

his labor and his leisure,

his mind and his body,

his education and his recreation,

his love and his religion.

He hardly knows which is which.

He simply pursues his vision of excellence

in whatever he does,

leaving others to decide

whether he is working or playing.

To him, he is always doing both.

Found here by Steve Cooperman.

Attributed to a Zen Buddhist, in Head to Head by Lester Thurow, Dean, Sloan School of Management, MIT.

I didn't think you needed any further explanations as to why I thought this was worth your time.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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The More the Merrier

Leading games is an art. Especially when you are leading games for large groups. Especially for very large groups - like, say, 1000 people. An art that can set the tone for an entire day or weekend or weeklong conference - for just about any organization, profit or non, kids or grown-ups. An art that requires years to master and that only a master player can teach.

Unless you happen to have a copy of a book called The More the Merrier - an impressively extensive, well-organized, carefully detailed, and often minutely scripted facilitation guide to games and exercises for large groups.

The authors are all themselves master players - and their mastery, based on years of direct experience leading large groups, is deep enough to have been built on the wisdom of other master players, including some of the leading thinkers in experiential education and group facilitation, and, in some small part, those of the people who carried on the work of the New Games Foundation, which includes the mastery of in some other small part, mine.

So moved am I by my being actually quoted that I am in similar manner moved to quote from the people who quoted me:
"The More The Merrier means that more players are not an obstacle to play, but something to celebrate. In the ideal global picture, people who love to play will invite more people to play, and those players will include even more players. People laughing and playing together create an experience in common. Commonalities create connections, the invitation to further relationship. From relationship comes the possibility of understanding, acceptance, and even forgiveness. We don t propose that large group play is an answer to world peace, though it could be a kinesthetic catalyst to peace among groups of every size. The More The Merrier contain stories, theories, charts, guidance, and instruction, distilled from the experiences of the three authors, along with over 100 games and activities. Some will be new to you and some are classics converted from small group play to large. Similar to a smörgåsbord, we invite you to take some and leave some, and be satisfied in the end."

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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12 Ways to Pimp your Office

Our Chief Happiness Officer has made a significant contribution to the potential for office happiness, or at least, office playfulness, in his most inspiring article "12 Ways to Pimp your Office". The tree-thing-with-balls, for example, that illustrates this article is actually a chair in which one could actually sit if one were so inclined, as one would definitely have to be. The article describes such bizarre office furniture as the high-tech, Mac-like, aquarium-holding Milk Desk, the office cowboy's Saddle Chair, and the naptime-ready Sumo Chair. Alexander Kjurelf, CHO, concludes:
"Why not let people choose for themselves, and give them a chance to create an environment that suits them. The resulting variety may be confusing to those who think that business is about structure, order and control… but it’s sure to be more stimulating and fun for those of us who think that work is about being happy."
These are clearly radical thoughts, as any work-happiness-correlation thoughts would have to be. Which makes them especially worthy of our collective attention. And yes, of course, you're right again - happily wacky furniture does not necessarily a happy office make. But, should it be the case that playfulness is actually smiled upon by the powers that be, and should all that smiling-upon be further validated by the daily performance in the sacred marketplace, well, then, eine kliene furniture-wackiness can only make a good thing more likely to get better, yes no?

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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For fun and function

I quote:

For all those times when you have spent a countless number of hours playing one of those little online games or watching stupid videos on the web, and stopped for a second to think to yourself, "Man, I really should do something more useful with my time...," and then kept wasting time anyways...

Now you can help us collect data about language AND play a fun game! We currently have two games, the Free-Association Game, and Categorilla...

Playing the games is useful in two ways. First, the games adapt and improve based on what people have typed. For example, the taboo words are generated based on the most popular past guesses for each word. Second, we collect the guesses, which gives us information about the relationships between words. For example, if you are playing Categorilla and type "George Washington" for the category "Presidents", we have now learned that George Washington is a president.

See also the semi-game-like Google Image Labeler

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Rock-Paper-Scissors, and way, way more

Apparently, someone named David C. Lovelace has been afoot (and even more ahand) at producing new and evermore complex variations of more mature versions of the apparently global game of Rock Paper Scissors. [Wikipedia notes the following additional names:
"Janken (Japan), Jiandao Shítou Bu (China), Rochambeau, Paper Scissors Stone (UK), Steen, Papier, Schaar (Netherlands), Scissors, Paper, Rock (Australia), Paper Scissors Rock (NZ), Ching Chong Cha (South Africa), Chi Ku Ba (Tamil - India), Even Niyar Umisparayim (Israel), Schnick, Schnack, Schnuck (Germany), Schere, Stein, Papier (Swiss German), Morra Cinese (Italy), Piedra, Papel o Tijeras (Latin America)...Pedra, Papel, Tesoura (Portugal), Chin chan pu (Mexico), Ca Chi Pun (Chile), Bao Sing Soum (Cambodia)... Pierre, Papier/Feuille, Ciseaux or chifoumi (French), Roche, Papier, Ciseaux (Quebec), Petra, Psalidi, Charti (Greece) and Kgauwi-bauwi-bo (Korea), Kivi, Paperi, Sakset (Finnish), Pao, Ying, Choop (Thai), Jack en Poy (Philippines)... "].
Lovelace has created RPS-7, a version of Rock Paper Scissors with 7 different symbols, RPS-9, etc., etc., until, in what we hope is the culminating Rock Paper Scissors variant, RPS 101, which is, as you might guess, Rock Paper Scissors as played with 101 different symbols.

In the meantime, noted Rejuvenile Christopher Noxon notes notably that the World RPS Society has taken Rock Paper Scissors to the business world, as can be seen in this video from a "500 person RPS Networking Event at the Word of Mouth Marketing Association Summit in Washington DC."

We do not know what would happen if these two great forces in Rock Paper Scissors innovations combined, and we probably don't want to know what would happen if they in turned combined with structured mayhem of Rock Paper Scissors Tag, but we do know a good game when we see one. Rock Paper Scissors, a children's game, profound enough to span the globe, to reach all the way from the playgrounds of the world to the heart of corporate culture.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Scheduling play at work, and scheduling work, also at work

The Now Habit, "A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play" by psychologist Dr. Neil Fiore, was originally published about 20 years ago, and people are still just getting around to buying it. I guess the reasons are self-explanatory. I, myself, just found out about the book from an article called: "Should You Really be Playing?." Here's a Fiore quote, courtesy of Trizle: "Scheduling play everyday instead stimulates your soul to work much more productively, while keeping your morale higher than a freakish eagle." Ah, and again, ah.

In a semi-related article, we find another ah-worthy article called "Flow: Get into the Zone at Work," which very neatly digests Csikszentmihalyi's vaunted psycho-philosophy into the following paragraph:
"Clarifying your short-term goals, closing out likely distractions, letting go of your expectations of how people will react to your work, setting apart a period of time and letting a timer keep track of it, testing early and often, adjusting tasks to the right level of difficulty, mastering your tools, enjoying craftsmanship for its own sake, and training your mind to wander less. All of these are simple things within themselves, though perhaps a lot to keep track of at once. You can integrate these components into your work style all at once or bit by bit. The end result will be the same: a fuller, more satisfying engagement with your work, yielding higher quality results."
I think it's the synthesis of these two semi-great insights into the play/work continuum that will bear the sweetest fruit - making sure you give yourself the permission to get into play, and making just as sure that you give yourself what you need to get into work.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Afterthoughts on Coworking

Friend, colleague and coworker Gerrit Visser had apparently been reading an old article of mine on the 3M Meeting Network, called Virtual Teamwork: Tools and Techniques for Working Together Online when he asked me if I would comment on how things had changed since that article.

It was a welcome challenge. I was surprised at how deeply I got into it, and how quickly it all seemed to come together. Here it is:

As web conferencing tools evolved to the point that Microsoft decided to buy Placeware and create its own brand "Live Meetings" the promise that I had seen for this technology largely devolved. Though all the tools are in place, and even cross-platform, what I've seen of the way these technologies are put to use is an exacerbation of the same problems that plague face-to-face large business meetings: agendas are rarely clear or followed, actual work, and decisions, are accomplished for the most part outside of the meeting, and the meeting itself is designed more to "broadcast" some presentation or another than it is to gather information or opinion. Regardless of the availability of online facilitation (the technologies of which have also grown more powerful and effective), the vast majority of large meetings (those that involve more than three people), are "informational" and political in purpose and function.

Working together (coworking), as it has become technologically empowered, has followed the same pattern that we have become familiar with in the office place - having its most success outside of scheduled meetings - informally, spontaneously, and most often between a few people who share a similar interest in getting something done.

Technography, the art of computer-enhanced facilitation, is still ahead of its time. And perhaps will remain ahead of its time for decades to come. It is being used to some degree in these small coworking groups, but, like these groups, informally and without any real focus on or knowledge of the facilitation of collaborative process. Given an application-sharing technology, someone might think of "throwing up a spreadsheet" and participants might ask for changes, or take over the driving as needed. This, however, is still rare. I do believe that it will become more of a modus operandi for coworking groups, but that will be a while.

I believe that most coworkers are mavericks. They have learned how, whenever possible, to avoid the office and office politics. They have grown up with computers and don't like to be taught how to do things. As in computer games, they like to "learn by dying" - invent themselves and their processes as they go along, master whatever software they need without reading the documentation, make their own mistakes, and learn from them. Because this way of coworking is so much more immediate, and so much more satisfying, it will probably persist for quite some time before people begin to pay attention to their own collaborative processes and how they might improve them.

With document sharing provided by mainstream services like Google, video chat supported by Yahoo, conference calling, combined with chat and peer-to-peer file transfer available for free via Skype, audio and video blogging, coworking tools are becoming more and more ubiquitous, and people are beginning to use them with as little forethought as picking up a telephone - a telephone which, of course, is Internet-compatible, GPS-enabled, and can capture photos and video.

This article was originally published on Coworking.com, where you can find the follow-up article "Community, Coworking and Coliberation."

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


The Opposite of Play

(image found in Lee Stranahan's weblog) Today's FunCast is inspired by a quote from Dr. Brian Sutton-Smith, my friend for over 30 years now, and, as all of my friends, my personal mentor. A play-advocate who has brought more understanding, compassion, scholarship and original thinking to the study of play than Piaget or Huizinga, professor emeritus of the University of Pennsylvania, and author of, among other things, The Ambiguity of Play. The quote: "The opposite of play isn't work, it's depression."

You have to be just a little bit of a rebel if you really want to have fun. You have to be doing something you're really not supposed to be doing. Nothing really bad or hurtful or even really dangerous. Something slightly naughty. A little bad maybe. A tiny bit illegal.

Like playing where you're not supposed to be playing, when you're not supposed to be playing, with people and things you're not supposed to play with. Or playing in a way you're not supposed to. With maybe not exactly the "real" rules.

For some reason, no matter how old you are, if fun is something you really want to be having, you generally have to be doing something you shouldn't be doing, really. That's how you get to the liminal spaces, at the edges of acceptability, predictability, respectability.

So when people talk about bringing fun into the workplace or places of learning, it's always just a little bit threatening, a little bit disturbing of the status of the quo.

And in places where such play becomes so threatening that it is rigidly, thoroughly disallowed, where this minor expression of playful illegality is systematically suppressed, you get depression. Deep, thorough, mind- and brain- and soul-numbing depression. In those places, work places, learning places, living places, you get the opposite of play.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Executive Balls

This extensive collection of balls from Office Playground is a valuable resource for anyone who understands the connections between busy fingers and open minds.

The collection includes some very different kinds of balls. One kind, which we couldn't help thinking of as, well, organic, proved to be remarkably engaging. A good example is the Icky Yicky Fuzz Ball. The outer layer transparent and covered with soft spines. Within, are small, colored, soft balls. I personally did not think this ball was very icky, yicky or fuzzy, but my fingers found it to be wonderfully sensual and inviting. Another, the Molecule Morph Stress Ball is covered by an opaque skin. When you squeeze it, the outer skin becomes transparent, revealing the color balls inside. And a third, the Click Clack Stress Ball contains hard plastic balls, which, as advertised, click and clack against each other when squeezed. Each of these three balls has a different feel, produces a different effect, and yet is closely enough related to the others that, as a set, they make for an experience that invites the senses. Collect a large enough variety of these balls, and you have the basis for a powerful group activity. All too often, meetings where people have to think abstractly or creatively become far too abstract and far less creative than planned. Simply by trading balls back and forth between participants, asking people to explain their preferences or describe the differences, or perhaps playing a passing game like A What, is a perfect way to help people focus on their own senses as well as on each other.

Then there are the balls that are filled with air or liquid or other non-ball stuff. One of the strangest and most visually delicious of this collection is called the Rainbow Bubble Ball. The soft, spine-covered outer membrane is held with a net. Squeezing the ball forces the skin through the net, creating, as advertised, multi-colored bubbles. There's something vaguely reminiscent of something else that I'd rather not be reminded about. Something mildly disgusting. Which, of course, is a major part of the attraction with many of these executive balls.

Then there are the kinds of balls that are particularly good for throwing, catching and slinging. Of these, the Water Swirl Ball combines the tactile delights of a deep squeezeworthiness, and the visual wonder of pearlescent liquidity with a stretchy, yo-yo-like handle that almost immediately lends itself to a variety of attractive nuisances, while the painlessly pointy, benevolently bouncy and considerably catchable Spikee Ball just about guarantees collaborative mayhem.

Though we were able to test only a relatively small sample, we were uniformly impressed by how inviting, and different they were, and how valuable a resource such a collection is to the enlightenhearted manager, facilitator, or professionally creative player.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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My Life in Play and Work

Friend and cospirator Alex Kjerulf, Chief Happiness Officer, has honored me by interviewing me about my life in games and my work with work.

You can read the interview here.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Fun at Work

Here's an article from the Christian Science Monitor, written in 2001, about Fun at Work. I quote:
Basketball hoops at work? Graffiti encouraged in the company restrooms? Nerf-dart wars on the office floor? All part of the day's work - at some firms.

The New Economy made foosball tables and an informal office setting the norm for companies desperate to attract talent. Then the dotcom bust turned those foosball tables, some critics say, into relics of a frivolous-business era. Now, casual dress is out; suits are back in vogue.

But even as the pendulum swings back toward the traditional, there are clear signs of lasting legacies from the New Economy workplace. Some amenities - espresso bars, redesigned workspaces that encourage interaction, break rooms - are here to stay. And a few successful firms are cultivating a culture where fun is more than a needed break from work - it is part of work.

The article captures a belief that many of us are trying almost desperately to hold on to - that bringing more toys into the workplace will make things more fun. It seems to me, however, that bringing more toys into the workplace to make work more fun is like bringing more canaries into the mine to make the mine safer. If the environment is toxic, it's time to get out of the mine.

Funspotting by Dr. Roger Greenaway

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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The Camp Wiki

The Camp Wiki is a resource for anyone who cares about groups - from camp counselors to business trainers. Right now, it is far from encyclopedic. There aren't nearly enough games described. But the games that are described are of proven play value, and many are as innovative as they are fun. For example, this very small sample of Big Games has only two games on it - Giant Billiards and Giant Scrabble (Boggle). Both they are both invitations to a great deal of fun, there's just enough about them to inspire the creation of more such games (did I ever tell you about Giant Foosball?), and, being a Wiki, and free, it's also enough to invite contributions from anyone who cares about groups and growth and fun. It's a fragile resource, dependent on its members for expertise and self-censorship. One that we should nourish and protect.

Funspotting by Dr. Roger Greenaway

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Working with Wonder

Read this:
REJUVENILE (made) a brief appearance this (Monday) morning in the first hour of ABC's "Good Morning America" in a story about play at the workplace. News flash: work is boring. A few office monkeys are fighting back with inter-department playground slides, break room foos-ball tables and other goofy innovations. Cue remark from yours truly on the importance of play and fun in the workplace and how these changes reflect the larger rejuvenile phenom.

One remark is unlikely to make the cut -- too often, the merry chattering bosses who institute "playful" reforms are putting window dressing on salt mines. There is little more infuriating than having a Wacky Fun Day hosted by an employer who skimps on health insurnace or restricts family leave. I don't think there's any doubt a genuinely playful attitude toward work can benefit both worker and the bottom line, but it's not about climbing walls or bobbleheads. It's about doing our work with the same wonder and imagination and sense of fun that too many workers ditch in the name of professionalism.
Christopher Noxon, you, too, have earned the full panoply of rights and privileges due to a "Defender of the Playful"

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Questions games

There's a weblog called Question of the Day, which, as advertised, asks questions, every, apparently, day. Questions like: How many boxes of cereal are in your kitchen?. What makes this site work so well is: the cleverness of the questions, the responses of the readers, and the rule that when you respond to a question, you must add another question of your own. For example, the first response to the cereal question went like this:
"6 open and 4 or 5 unopened.

How many pairs of jeans do you own?"
The next:
"I own 15-20 pairs of jeans.

How many siblings do you have?"
et, most wonderfully, cetera.

I played a game like this at a NASAGA conference years ago. We were learning about a process for discussing a book. The leader began with a question. Anyone who wanted to respond answered, and then concluded by asking another question. As we progressed, our questions and responses became increasingly more genuine. It was strange, odd, even, because the structure didn't allow for what we commonly think of as "conversation" or even "discussion." And yet, as we progressed, we each experienced the development of a deeply and honestly shared inquiry, and understanding.

Then, of course, there's the Questions Game that has become a standard among improvisational theater games, and was enshrined by the not-yet-dead Rosencrantz and Gildenstern in the Tom Stoppard play - in which everything anyone says has to be a question?

And then there are the games of Two Answers and Plenty Questions as described elsewhere by yours, the funsmith, truly.

Play on!

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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FunCast - Getting Paid to Play

While you're listening to this week's Funcast here, think about the fact that it was written by someone who makes something like a living designing games, teaching people how to have more fun, and stuff like that. It will make it perhaps a bit more useful to know that it was such a person who observed, perhaps a bit bitterly:
Here we are, play/creating along with the fortunate few who have also managed to be paid to play, making brilliance in the depths of conference rooms and kiosks, and it's not fun! We may be involved, heart, soul and might, in the depths of play and the heights of creativity, we may even have exceeded our wildest dreams, but, any attempts to share our ecstasy with our benevolent result in our being further patronized. The fact is, we are being paid to play by the very people who are being paid not to. We must bless our patrons as they bless us, for they derive their joy elsewhere. Though we delightedly sweat buckets of brilliance into the daily pale of commerce, our patrons are off playing a truly different game where fun is measured profit and the promise of a plenitude of plenty. (You can read the whole article here).

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Executive Playgrounds

In this clip, Rob Fulup, Michael Schrage and I describe the kind of collaboration I was able to facilitate when I developed my Technography method.

What Technography is to meetings, Junkyard Sports is to professional sports. It's the same central vision, informed by the ideal of mutual empowerment, of what I call "Coliberation." Just like Junkyard Sports, Technography approaches meetings as open systems, designed to serve the community that uses them: where the players are more important than the game, where success is measured in terms of participation, involvement, mutual accomplishment.

You can read more about the Technography method in a collection of my articles called "Meetings and Fun." Of those articles, the last, Executive Playgrounds, is the subject of today's FunCast, (which you can listen to here) and perhaps the most relevant to this historical perspective - making the connection between meeting rooms and playgrounds - explaining why, despite the success of Technography, I found myself looking for more fundamental and universal solutions.

The video clip is from a video called "The Not So-Obvious Art of Collaboration" (which failed to be published due to the no so obvious art of marketing). The tape was made in the 90s, shortly after the publication of Connected Executives.

from Bernie DeKoven's FunLog

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Legos at work

Funscout Eric Jacobs writes about connections between the qualities of Lego-play and worklife:
Most of my Lego playing recently has been with the small pile of pieces I have at work. I think my collection at home has gotten too big and unwieldy, but I'm working on setting up a dedicated storage/play area to take care of that. I really want to be able to build some larger, more involved models like I used to. So back to the office: I encourage everyone in the office to play with the Lego, take a handful back to their desk, whatever they want.

I'm a programmer at a software company, and the other programmers especially like the Lego, though almost everyone plays with it sometimes. I've always thought programming is a mix of art and engineering, which I think is why the Lego is so appealing- an open-ended building toy, that exercises a combination of art/creativity and engineering/building. A lot of people (including me) like to just have something to fiddle with to keep their hands busy while they're thinking. So during impromptu meetings and design discussions, people grab a handful of bricks and doodle with them. Sometimes people actually take play-breaks, come sit down for a few minutes and dedicate their full attention to building something.

Something interesting that my team-mates and I noticed is that the quantity and complexity of Lego models being built is inversely proportional to how much fun we're having actually working. The last project we were working on was pretty rough, which resulted in a lot of play-breaks to unwind. (By the end of the project, we ended up with a lot of models of classic video-game characters. For some reason I love the idea of using one toy to build another toy.) The current project is actually fun, and the Lego models have dropped off dramatically.

Something else interesting that I think I've noticed: The last company I was at wasn't a particularly good place to work. People would stop by and build pretty dark stuff. There were a couple minifigs of Santa Claus in there, and by far the most popular theme was dioramas of Santa being killed in creative ways. James Bond type lasers ("No Mr Claus, I expect you to die!"), wood-chippers, industrial accidents, you name it.

Granted, a lot of people like the irony of building dark models from Lego, but nowhere near as much dark stuff like that gets built at the current company. We've got cars, airplanes, pimped-out lawnmowers, video-game characters. (Not too far from what your average kid would build.)

A couple of us have actually used the Lego as a tool too. We were working on labor-scheduling software, and found the blocks were great for working out algorithms by hand. (Ok, the red bricks are 15-minute blocks of time that we need a cashier. And the blue is stockroom. So the leveling algorithm needs to move the blue from here to here...)

One last thing I think you'll like: Many, perhaps most, adult Lego fans go through a period, usually the teenage years, where they decide they're too old to play with Lego. I don't know who coined the term, but we call that 'the dark ages.'

from Bernie DeKoven's FunLog

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Serious Leisure

I started today looking about for things to take seriously. Just as I was about to give in to it all, I found this article about Serious leisure. I know. I know. It doesn't sound serious enough. Nothing can, really. But wait. Let me quote:

Serious Leisure "...is the systematic pursuit of an amateur, hobbyist, or volunteer core activity that is highly substantial, interesting, and fulfilling and where, in the typical case, participants find a career in acquiring and expressing a combination of its special skills, knowledge, and experience (Stebbins, 1992, p.3). The adjective 'serious' (a word Stebbins's research respondents often used) embodies such qualities as earnestness, sincerity, importance, and carefulness. This adjective, basically a folk term, signals the importance of these three types of activity (serious, casual and project-based) serious leisure in the everyday lives of participants, in that pursuing the three eventually engenders deep self-fulfillment."

It's hard to think of all those people who have dedicated so much of themselves to the memory of 9/11 as engaging in anything as trivial as leisure. But it's serious leisure. It's something they choose, out of their own free will and time, not for money or glory, but because they find it rewarding. Rewarding as in the kind of rewards you get from doing things you believe in, from doing things you think are "right."

Casual leisure?

"Casual leisure is immediately intrinsically rewarding, relatively short-lived pleasurable activity requiring little or no special training to enjoy it. It is fundamentally hedonic, engaged in for the significant level of pure enjoyment, or pleasure, found there...Serious leisure is further distinguished from casual leisure by six characteristics found exclusively or in highly elaborated form only in the first. These characteristics are 1) need to persevere at the activity, 2) availability of a leisure career, 3) need to put in effort to gain skill and knowledge, 4) realization of various special benefits, 5) unique ethos and social world, and 6) an attractive personal and social identity."

It seems to me that in a slightly better and more uniformly affluent world, these distinctions would not be that easy to draw. The Casual Leisure of the immediately rewarding would be just about the same as "playing." "Project-based leisure," the "short-term, moderately complicated, either one-shot or occasional, though infrequent, creative undertaking carried out in free time," would be known as "learning." And the serious leisure of doing what you want most to do - "living."

Thanks for this leisurely find go to Funscout Joey Grey


The Lazy Way to Success

I found this quote on a blog called "The Lazy Way to Success:"
"I did not do it with hard work. I did not do it by busting my butt. I did it by having fun – so much fun that people were attracted to that fun. I then picked the most competent attractees to be on my team and off we went. Whatever “hard work” there might have been, I had long since turned into a game and we had fun “playing” it.

"We had fun and by having fun we discovered stuff which led to more fun which led to more discoveries which led to more fun and so on. In my opinion, when the fun stops, that is an indication that the end is near. Preserving the fun, nurturing the fun, and stoking the fun are the keys to a thriving organization."
The quote is from a fellow named "Fred Gratzon," coincidentally the author of The Lazy Way to Success. Serendepitously, Fred has had some mighty relevant business experience to back up his insights:
"In 1979 with no money, no experience, and no knowledge of how to make ice cream, he founded The Great Midwestern Ice Cream Company. In 1984 his ice cream was judged by People magazine to be the best ice cream in America. Playboy made the same declaration in 1986.

"In 1989, again with no money and no knowledge or experience of telecommunications Fred founded Telegroup in a spare room in his house. Telegroup became an international long distance carrier and grew to 1100 employees with $400 million in annual sales."
One cannot help but be impressed by the man and the message. One cannot help but feel vindicated, encouraged, freed, even, by his clearly well-founded faith in fun. Especially if one, oneself, leads a workshop called "Leading with Fun."


A Basket Full of Squishies

You remember me writing you about Office Playground? It was in that article on Toy Therapy for Business Meetings, in case you forgot.

I went to them for an update on their current meeting-appropriate toy offerings, and wound up with what I'd like to think of as "a basket full of squishies." Like to think, because I only got four, and the basket's too big, anyhow. Anyhow, as I was saying, think of these as a representative four, a mere sample of the varieties of "squish" (or whatever you call that really stretchable, baby-poweder-covered stuff they're made of and their meanings.

Let us begin therefore with the Spaghetti Ball, because it was my favorite and took me most by surprise. It's a bunch of squishy strings attached in the middle, is what it is. Long squishy strings, attached in the middle, and when you throw it, darn if it doesn't kind of ball up, and when you spin it darn if it doesn't flatten out, and darn if it doesn't hang by any one of it's strings and darn if you can't spin the whole thing pretty darn fast, if you want, in a pre-launching manner.

This pre-launching spinning of a mass of connected squishy strings activity is remarkably similar to that performed by the user of that which is commonly refered to as the Stretchin' Squid Yo Yo.

My wife, when she first saw the Stretchin' Squid Yo Yo - with its convenient finger-ring-ended highly stretchable, well, tentacle, with which, should you so desire, you can perform yo-yo-like activities - proceded to demonstrate the verisimilitude, showing me how she could Rock the Cradle, Shoot the Moon, Walk the Dog, and make me writhe with laughter.

Then there's this squishy frisbee-thing, the Stretch Flyer, which does in deed flatten and fly frisbee-like into the beyond, and also fits over your head. Thus, should a great deal of shared spunkiness be manifest, it can easily serve as an invitation to a game of frisbee catch, or golf, or basketball, or dodgeball, for that matter - a dodgeball that doesn't hurt. Or, as previously noted, you can put it over your head, which, at times, is exactly what you need to be able to do.

Finally, we have Stretchy String, also made of the basic squishy material, but thicker, and hence, stretchier, and further hence, can be snapped at things and people as well as whirled menacingly and at extensive distance. Of course, it doesn't really hurt when it hits you, but it sure looks like it will. As it does when someone snaps it at you.

Note, if you will, how each of these lends itself to a range of play, from sensual and contemplative, to downright hostile and aggressive. Note, further, how, though each is in deed a tension reliever, some seem to lend themselves more to relieving social tension than personal.

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Toy Therapy for Creative Business Meetings

Given the air of renewedness that accompanies the commencement of the school year, many of us in the business world find ourselves engaged in lengthy creative and problem-solving meetings. Which brings me to this week's FunCast, the text of which and more may be found here.

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Don't let the humor escape you


The Power of a Playful Spirit at Work

Take heart, ye workers of the world. Here is some exemplary playful pith from an article by Deanna H. Berg in which she writes about "The power of a playful spirit at work:
"When work isn't fun, people do the minimum they need to survive until they can leave work and have fun outside of work. Many companies now realize that playful creativity and meaningful work can combine to create organizations where people not only love to come to work, but also obtain superior results...

"The opportunity to play and have fun while we work can provide the safe environment needed to expand...self-imposed limits. A playful spirit (makes) it acceptable to experiment and not have to have all the answers.

"Play can also be a vehicle for self-discovery, making it possible for us to safely go beyond perceived boundaries to learn new ways of unleashing our skills.

"Taking time to play can also renew our energy for work... How many of us have been through job interviews where, after talking for an hour about our work qualifications, the interviewer then asked, "and what do you do for fun?" We can't separate play and work; if we're not having fun at work, we probably won't be having much at home either."

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Junkyard Golf Conference Kickstart Kit

Junkyard Golf Conference Kickstart KitI'm sure you remember my personal hoo haa over the Junkyard Golf Course and Community Building Event with Potluck (click link to download). I managed to get a very big vision for a wonderfully positive, fun-for-all event into a 10-page document. And I decided to give it away!

As you might have by now surmised, I've been experiencing a kind of leap, quantum-wise, with this whole junkyard thing. It started when I decided to think about using Junkyard Golf for a community celebration. Which is weird, because Junkyard Golf, the very first time I played it, was part of a community celebration, remember, for a preschool in Palo Alto called "Leaping Lizards."

So, to answer your question, what else I've been doing with Junkyard Golf is inventing the Junkyard Golf Conference Kickstart Kit. Which is a simulation game for the business community. For business to build community. For business to help people learn about how to build a better business community. Probably right after breakfast on the first day of a conference.

I made it a version of Junkyard Golf that you can play on tabletops, in a banquet room. Sure, you can play it on tabletops in the cafeteria or on a long table for a few small groups, even. And, yes, of course, you can even play it on the floor. But the point is, it can be played right where and when people most need this kind of experience, and most can use this kind of learning. Early on. Right after a meal.

Then I found a place that collected really "neat junk" - thick, colorful cardboard tubes, beautiful fabric and cardboard pieces, smooth chunks of wood, eye-blinding strips of Mylar. Who made it possible for me to make identical kits of really lovely junk - one kit for every table. Thus eliminating what seems to be the apparently overwhelmingly challenging requirement of people having to collect and pack their own junk.

And then, because it's designed to be played at conferences, at a dinner or breakfast or lunch or something, I decided to call it what I did. It's golf, but you don't even need a golf club. In fact, you can, with more control even than hitting a ball with a thing, slide or even flick. Kind of as in shuffleboard. And then I made changed a little about the game to make it at least as relevant and discussion-worthy as it was fun - relevant to learning about building the business community.

And now, can you believe it, you can order your very own Junkyard Golf Conference Kickstart Kit (from me, for the nonce). Soon, even, you'll be able to order it online. Now, you can even ask me to run the game with you. Soon, you'll have others to help you.

It's a business game, you know. A "simulation." It's fun you can take seriously.

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Make your business happy and rich

Alexander Kjerulf calls himself a "Chief Happiness Office" and is very interested in the possibility of there being such a thing as "Happiness at Work." In a recent post, he writes about how to: "Make your business happy and rich." Here are his observations:

"Happiness at work is a choice
You can't force or pressure people to be happy, no matter how genuine your concern for others. If you create a mood where it's right to be happy and wrong to unhappy or dissatisfied, people will rebel against that and actually become less happy.

Happiness at work is different for everyone
One man's happiness is another person's living hell. We're all different, and the same things will make some people happy, and others unhappy.

Happiness at work is long-term
It's never about blowing off what must be done, in order to have fun and be happy instead. It;s not just about being happy here and now - it's happiness for tomorrow and next year and 10 years from now."


Bill Harris on Work, Fun and Freedom

I received the following email from fellow facilitator and brother-in-fun Bill Harris, in response to my posting on "Of Fun and Work:"
I think many people likely don't think work can be fun. Some of those might benefit from seeing Richard Feynman's video interview and the way a focus on fun helped him do great work (beginning with the segment on his turning down an opportunity to join Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study, at 20:14).

Others might benefit from changing jobs -- or at least changing their attitude towards their current job. (I think I've seen people who think that work shouldn't be fun; you weren't being earnest if you were having fun.)

One of the big deals for me, though, is freedom. If you "make" me do something I don't want to do, you run a risk of me reacting inappropriately, and that could include suing later (see this). You also might find that I discover the thing you're suggesting really is fun, but that's a gamble. For example, I think I'd find a ropes course very un-fun, and I've been at a fun evening event with a comedian in a workplace that turned out to be painful more than funny. On the other hand, I recall Halloween costumes at work, juggling fruit at work or watching people bowl with oranges down the hall -- and the pleasure / fun from seeing a group make great progress or finally catching on to the answer to a tough problem.

The challenge is that people in many (most?) organizations don't feel able to speak up clearly, openly, and honestly, so it's hard to tell whether you're forcing someone to do something, I guess. That's one of the things I focus on, but it's not always easy; in fact, it can demand quite a bit of courage and personal insight on people's parts, even if management says they favor
Yeah. So somehow, the fun of work, the inherent fun, has to do with the experience of freedom. Oh, yeah and again yeah!

So here's my take on the fun-freedom connection.