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May I Have 37 Foam Clown Noses, Please?

Class_clownMy students and I had an interesting discussion in our Leadership class at Drake this week.  We talked about fun.  Actually, the discussion was more focused on corporate culture and the leader's role in shaping it, but we were covering some case studies about actual organizations who infused fun into their corporate cultures.

One student had an interesting question, and I'd like to pass it along and pose it to you, my readers.  Is it possible to make any and every job fun?  Conversely, are there jobs or industries in which fun is just not a possibility?

This seemed to generate some lively discussion among my students.  By the way, don't they look adorable?  (The folks at the costume shop thought I was a little off my rocker... but that's not far from the truth.)

So... what are your thoughts about fun in the workplace?  We spend so much of our waking hours there... shouldn't we make it a goal to make it somewhat tolerable?


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Roger von Oech

I've found that "fun" is a natural by-product of the creative process. When people are cranking out ideas, they tend to enjoy themselves as well.

Timothy Johnson

Great build, Roger... and you're right. Making something significant tends to cheer people up. And who knows more about creativity than you? Thanks for stopping in!!!

Eric Peterson


I think fun is always a possibility in the workplace. In fact, it should be something we strive to achieve. Implementation is where I am stuck, especially in a manufacturing setting.

I'm believing that the "shop floor" may be one of the most difficult places to bring a "fun" atmosphere. I'm constantly seeing production workers who come to work, put their time in, and leave. No personality. No fun. I suppose what I should really be critiquing, is if this is the atmosphere that we as managers (leaders) in the company have created.

But, I'm sure willing to start that journey of bringing fun to the manufacturing plant. I've started with food (because everyone loves food). Candy throughtout the workday. Breakfast pizza when I had them work Saturday. I just hope the day-to-day stressors of the workplace don't zap all of my creative juices in thinking of ways to bring fun to work.

As a side note, I did get a few laughs in the office from the wonderful clown nose!! Thanks for the gift!

Timothy Johnson

Eric, you're very welcome. The clown noses certainly helped the class atmosphere the other night. Implementation is like the journey of a thousand miles... it all begins with the first step. Just make sure you're headed in the right direction. Food is always a good start.

Delaney Kirk

So where's the clown teacher in this photo? And how do you get your students to agree to this???

Timothy Johnson

Delaney - somebody had to be the photographer. My students are pretty good-natured this semester. All I had to do was ask.

jen_chan, writer SureFireWealth.com

Incorporating fun in the workplace is not impossible and is certainly ideal. However, I think there are elements that manage to kill the fun in any job. For example, what if there is tremendous pressure put on you? What if your boss gave you millions in advertising budget and you're constantly pressured to deliver results. Every time you do well on one project, you're expected to do better on the next. What if your contractors or your men are sloppy with measurements? Not to mention crappy computers in the work place.

Timothy Johnson

Jen - great comments. I'm constantly challenging my clients and my students to push back appropriately. Pressure takes forces imposed from more than just one angle. Sure, managers may demand more, but we allow them to do so. I had a student this past week who was asking what to do about a boss who constantly gave her and her colleagues more work, despite the fact that they could prove they needed to hire another person. Then she turned around and admitted that she and her coworkers accepted new projects, even though they were overcommitted. Managers could learn a lot from physicists.... when it comes to issues like pressure, force, momentum, and gravity... some things really do stay constant.

MïK Watson

The picture reminds me of my days as foreman in a shipyard. I had a crew of 30 craftsmen, who was in the midst of a scheduling crisis...which usually meant 12 hr days. They were about played out, when I brought in 50 foam clown noses. The few "class-clowns" grabbed them up immediately, and then a few of the regular guys. By the third day, almost everyone had obtained one and were flashing them at each other constantly. the best part was going to a production meeting and finding several senior persons giving their reports sporting clown noses!
Don't ever forget to give your guys as much as you get.

Timothy Johnson

What a great story, Mik! And it has such a powerful moral at the end of the story. I laughed thinking about a bunch of shipyard guys wearing clown noses... but it does a lot to improve the culture of any work environment, doesn't it?

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