The Fun Theory

Earlier this month I saw an interesting video. The creators focused on what appears to be a train station with a long set of stairs immediately adjacent to a working escalator (going up.) As you would expect, the vast majority of commuters chose to take the escalator rather than walking up the stairs. The question posed by the creators of the video was simple: “if taking the stairs was more fun, would more people do it?” To test their premise, a team of engineers turned each stair into a functioning piano key (think of the supersized piano in the movie “Big”). Sure enough, as soon as the staircase was turned into a musical instrument, a majority of commuters chose to walk up the stairs rather than ride the escalator. Check the video out below:

The conclusion reached by the end of the experiment is obvious, at least at first glance: if you make something fun, more people will do it. While this isn’t rocket science, I believe it is potentially very powerful. As a business person, take a moment to evaluate the culture of your company. Is it fun? Do employees enjoy coming to work? Let’s be honest—for most of us, the answer to that question is no. And the idea of transforming a workplace into a giant piano or an amusement park may sound like fun, but it’s not practical. But is there any way to transform your workplace into a more enjoyable environment? And don’t stop with your employees— what about your customers? Is it fun for them to do business with you? Below are some ideas for managers and business owners to consider:

1) Make it impossible for your clients to resist doing business with you. Every year, I take some of my clients to the Grammy’s. I’m also taking clients to The Kentucky Derby, Hollywood, and Bermuda. Why? Because we have business to do… but we might as well have some fun in the process!

2) Start an office bowling league. Or form a softball team. Or a weekly basketball game. The activity doesn’t really matter—the point is to find something, outside of work, that your employees and coworkers can enjoy together. You’ll find that the basketball game from the previous evening becomes a popular topic of conversation around the office. While it may not make the work itself more fun, it will gradually build camaraderie throughout the office—and that makes everything more fun.

3) Engage your employees’ minds. Many people “shut down” their mind as they walk in the office door each morning. And why wouldn’t they? A day spent following directions and performing scripted tasks just isn’t very stimulating. As a manager or a leader, look for opportunities to make your team think outside of the box. Whether it’s troubleshooting a problem or creating a new product to be sold, asking an employee to think is a great way to get them engaged in their workplace. And an engaged employee is a happier employee, every single time.

“Fun theory” states that if something is fun, people are more likely to do it. As a business owner or a leader, you want to keep your employees around and have the ability to attract new talent, right? Making your workplace a fun place to be is a huge step in the right direction.