Foolishness is the path to awesomeness
I am a firm believer in foolishness at work.  That’s right.  Foolishness.

Maybe I shouldn’t admit it.  Someone might read this and think I spend my days standing on my head or something.

Nothing quite so foolish, so allow me to explain.

 

Supporting the foolishness

At work, we have an internal social network to share work and non-work information with each other. It’s a cross between facebook, twitter and blogging with updates, articles, links and more.

I’m an active participant, having created several collaborative sites for various purposes.  One of my earliest sites was “Work-Life Balance,” to support the exchange of thoughts and information to better manage our conflicting demands.

This week, I was contacted to use the site to host a photo contest.  We did one last year and it was one of the most popular and engaging activities on our network.  The sponsors wanted to do it again this year.

I said absolutely!  In response, the sponsors thanked me for participating in the foolishness.

At first I thought it was an odd term.  I don’t think asking employees to participate in common, creative activities, or sharing things that are of interest to them, is foolish.  I think it’s an important part of having happy, engaged employees that feel part of a team or organization.

Participating in the foolishness

The day after the request, one of my team members surprised all of us with Halloween decorations for our work area.  He’s big into Legos and brought in a very complex haunted house, with zombies, vampires, witches and more.

We didn’t know how much more until we all arrived into the office.  As we went into hysterics, he proceeded to unveil our personal minifigures.  There was one for each of us, customized to our individual interests and quirks.

I won’t describe everyone on the team, but I will describe mine (for anyone that can’t tell at a glance, which is probably anyone that knows me).  I’m in the back right, with hair parted just so, holding a teddy bear, with a platoon of Marines behind me at the ready.

This may not seem like a big deal, if it wasn’t for the bear.  It is my son’s bear, ABe, which stands for Adoption Bear.

ABe was from a Jockey promotion.  For every bear purchase, money helps match children with forever families through adoption.  Since our family was created through adoption, the bear means more to us than just any stuffed animal.

I wasn’t the only one, everyone on the team had something custom to represent his or her personality or individual nature.  That’s why it was so meaningful – it really was “us.”

We laughed so much that morning.  We staged the “team” and took pictures.  I had my DSLR with me and made a small photo studio to take quality images.  We have the team photo as our desktop backgrounds and have changed our profiles to be our individual minis.

The people around us must have thought we were foolish that morning.  They were right.

Why would I encourage and participate in the foolishness?  We lost productivity.  We were distracting and distracted.  No work was accomplished for a period of time, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

 

Celebrating the foolishness

I can speak for every person on the team when I say they all work hard and are expected to deliver on complex and time consuming deliverables.  They get frustrated and annoyed and it may take a while before they get a sense of satisfaction from their individual work. Yet they all enjoy coming into work every day.

When one of them sighs, someone comes around the corner and asks how they can help.  They notice each other’s highs and lows.  They occasionally go out to breakfast together before work or to hit a few golf balls after.  They are not just a collection of individuals or a team.  They are more.

I’d argue that the occasional foolishness is what makes them a family.  One that is supportive and caring.  One that makes it easier to challenge and question, because they each know it comes from a good place.

After witnessing and participating in the Lego fun this week, I am embracing the term foolishness.  I may not have used it before because of what it implies.  Now I’m thinking it’s just the right word.

I’m not encouraging people to goof off at the expense of the job.  However, I do believe there is something to be said for allowing people to connect over things that are not work related, even if they might seem silly or foolish.  If they bond your employees to each other, and you, how can that be a bad thing?

 

Do you allow, encourage or participate in foolishness in the work environment?  What are your thoughts on the impact to employee engagement and productivity?  I’d love if you could share your thoughts in the comments and keep the conversation going.