Big Little Things

Yo, where the party at?

tom sawyer work play

There’s a smart post over at Creating Passionate Users. It outlines a 15-step process for a “design dinner party,” and it definitely seems like a good process.

But it’s worth noting that the specific process you use isn’t the most important thing. The most important thing is the mindset in which you approach the work. The most important part of the “design dinner party” is the party, not the process. This is something we’ve been harping on for quite a while: the power of fun. The best way to generate a new idea, or begin the design of a new product or process is to stop working and start playing.

The difference between work and play is only in your mind. And the best work gets done when it feels like play. Sounds obvious, right? But the hard part is actually making your work feel like play, and even harder is getting others to play along with you. But if Tom Sawyer could do it, surely you can too.

Tom turned a fence-painting chore into a party for his friends, and the fence got painted while everyone had a good time. It never felt like work.

He had had a nice, good, idle time all the while – plenty of company – and the fence had three coats of whitewash on it!

In having a party, you bring booze (which helps get people to drop their guard), you remove the icky office environment (which helps people think like people, not robots), and you make fun be the objective of the day (which means the best ideas get room to breathe).

But a party is a special occasion, and if you follow the design dinner party model, you’ll only get to have fun at work once a quarter. And that would suck serious ass.

But take heart. It’s not the booze or the bar that matters. It’s your approach to your work. So:

What if your office environment felt more like the kinds of places you go for fun?

What if your meetings felt more like the gatherings you have with your friends?

What if your relationships with coworkers and clients and customers felt more like those you have with the people you love?

2 Responses to “Yo, where the party at?”

  1. aaron bear chan Says:

    awesome post.

    Being loose and “having fun” does seem to bring out people’s best, and it seems that because of this Managers would want their employees to have fun doing what they are doing.

    I was thinking about this concept as it pertains to job interviews since I have been going through a few of them lately. Before I went in recently a friend of mine really stressed to be loose. I remember thinking “be loose, be loose. be loose,” all the way up the elevator. Luckily the first part of the interview was with a friend of a friend, so I was able to relax a bit before I started talking to the big cheeses, but it made me reflect on all those interviews I had gone into feeling stiff…maybe I should have gone in a little drunk or high, after all isn’t that why they invented Altoids?

    Speaking first to the friend of my friend put me into a mind state where I did feel like I was discussing some giant collaboration with my friends. This got me really excited about wanting to contribute to the process. It was because of this, that the interviewers were able to recognize my brilliance.

    So, it seems that if you want to find out the real potential behind a prospective job candidate for your organization, it would be best to make them feel as comfortable as possible. I know at least one organization that offers whiskey to its interviewees.

  2. Axel Albin Says:

    That’s good advice, Aaron. My favorite piece of interview advice is to remember that you don’t need/want that job if it’s not a good fit, and your task is to figure out if the job is any good. The effect is that it turns the interview into a reverse-interview, where you’re relaxed and the employer is answering as many questions as you are. And you’re right, being relaxed makes all the difference.

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