I’ve always believed in having fun at work. In a pressurized workplace, no one actually wants to be told to lighten up, but making someone laugh can take the steam out of an explosive environment. Keeping a sense of humour when under pressure often generates the best solution (sometimes in surprisingly creative ways!) and cultivates a camaraderie among staff that will endure past this week’s deadline.
Successful CEOs know the importance of fun. I’m a big fan of the New York Times column, Corner Office, which interviews successful CEOS about their leadership styles and corporate culture. In looking over my faves recently, I noticed that several, including powerhouses such as Kyle Zimmer of First Book and Angie Hicks of Angie’s List, cited the importance of “fun” and being “playful” in working with people and brainstorming solutions. Hicks’s career advice goes so far as to say, “If you’re not having fun at your job, you should quit.”
Linus Torvalds, a principal writer of Linux, an operating system he simply gave away for free, says he has no interest in saving the world, or even making operating systems free for everyone. He simply didn’t think running a corporate structure to sell Linux looked like fun. In a presentation recorded by the Computer History Museum in 2001, he said, “People think I’m this do-gooder, and they need to understand I did it because it was fun.” Torvalds’s personal emblem, Tux, is a cartoon penguin, the kind of anti-suit.
Counter culture billionaire Richard Branson has more of a social conscience than Torvalds does. He says he now spends 70% of his time investing in solutions to poverty and environmental issues around the world. A self-made tycoon who went “from selling records from the boot of a car to space travel, the most ridiculous extreme….” he says about his latest business ventures, “All I can promise is that they’ll be fun.” The irrepressible Branson, whose dyslexia kept him from standard educational successes, has a broad genuine smile that rarely leaves his face. We can be sure that he – and other successful CEOS – will keep making money and having fun doing it.