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Creativity Comments by Winston J. Brill, Ph.D.

09/02 Guest Creativity Comment

More Fun and Great Ideas

by Sharon L. Gander, Learning Architect, Cerner Corporation

Somewhere along the line we have created a cultural axiom that says that work is serious, while play is fun, and that never the twain shall meet.  However, this is counter to our own experiences.  Watch any child at play. Watch a dog with meaty bone.  Watch a cat stalk a fluttering piece of paper. He or she is very serious and working very hard and having fun.  This is how I feel when I'm working on great ideas -- serious, intense, stimulated, excited, focused, joyful and pleased.  It's adrenalin and skull sweat combined with long hours and difficult barriers to leap over that results in surges of pleasure -- the aphrodisiac called creation, rush of success in skimming barriers with super-hero-like panache, and good old serotonin.   Great ideas are hard work for an amazing “high.”  When the ideas pan-out, there is a rush of feeling that is as good as chocolate for making us feel good.  We end up summing it all up in the phrase "That was fun." 

For several years I worked in an organization where a vice president of one team regularly stopped by and asked people "Are we having fun, yet?"  It wasn't a joke or put down.  He seriously was interested in seeing the team having fun by working on creative, difficult, complex projects in areas where we and the company did not yet have experience.  In fact, he approached his own work, and his interactions with us as his team, in that same seriously playful manner. It worked, too.  The sad part is that as the group grew in size, and the demands of the company for their services grew, the ability to have fun on a daily basis diminished.  The work became routine.  This VP stopped asking anyone whether they are having fun.  In fact, he no longer had the opportunity to work with everyone on the team or to know half of the people now on the team.  For the new people, their culture no longer has the "fun" ethic in it.  As might be expected, the degree of innovation is down, too.

Even though the work responsibilities have increased, the amount of work accomplished by double and triple the number of people is not double or triple...it’s much less.  With a decrease in fun, there has been a corresponding decrease in output.

Perhaps this quote says it all: "I've just been so interested in what I was doing [genetic research] that I never thought of stopping."  Barbara McClintock, Nobel laureate, 1902-1992.
Now that's serious fun!
 

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