During the economic recession in 2008, as the then Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger had to negotiate the budget with another legislative leader. Before the negotiation, he sent something to the legislative leader. Something that you would probably never think of.
Arnold Schwarzenegger sent him a sculpture of a set of bull balls, with a note, “I hope you have that!”.
In his interview with Tim Ferriss, Tim Ferriss Interviews Arnold Schwarzenegger on Psychological Warfare (And Much More), he explained himself:
“When things get really intense and when people start freaking out, I try to make a joke or something to lighten things up. And just say, look, 10 years from now we are going to look at this day and laugh about it.”
Sending a sculpture of bull balls (as a governor and to a legislative leader) might be a little extreme as a joke. Nevertheless, from my experiences, I’ve learnt that fun teams are better teams.
Halo and Team Fortress 2
“People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.” — Dale Carnegie
This is the team that taught me that fun teams are better teams. We came together in the Entrepreneurship Program during our high school and worked together for 3 years on several projects.
As a team, we really knew how to have fun. The first thing on our agenda at meetings was always Halo or Team Fortress 2. We would meet up at Glenn’s place and play a few rounds of Halo or Team Fortress 2 or both before starting proper discussions.
We could never sit down and complete our discussion or work in one session. Very often, we would end up playing Guitar Hero, watching a movie, going for a swim or laughing at Glenn’s “great” singing halfway through our meetings.
How did we do?
In the first year, our business idea didn’t make it to the Semi-Final round of our school’s annual Projects Day Competition but our case study presentation was outstanding (more on this below).
In the second year, we make it to the Grand Finals of the Projects Day Competition and was also selected to represent the school for the Stanford Global Innovation Challenge!
In the third year, we made it to the Grand Finals of another business plan competition called, Best Business Idea.
Makes Work More Enjoyable
We might not have won any of the competitions, but I don’t think the issue was that we had too much fun while working. In fact, I feel that our performance was pretty impressive and it was because we knew how to have fun.
Parts of the projects that were supposed to be tough didn’t feel that bad. Sometimes, boring work became fun and enjoyable. We never really had any intense debate because someone would often crack a joke when the atmosphere became too tense. This fun work dynamic also made the competitions much less stressful for us.
Meetings were not only enjoyable, but they also became wonderful memories that we would continue to laugh at up till now. These shared fun experiences brought us close together as a team.
More Productive And Creative
The other benefit that I experienced during that period was the increase in productivity and creativity. It might sound counter-intuitive, but taking time off to play while working actually made us more productive and creative.
For example, in the first year, we had to present a case study of an entrepreneur to the class. Every other team presented with a set of powerpoint slides.
But we didn’t. I don’t think we used any powerpoint slides at all.
We role-played the story of the entrepreneur we selected. I cannot remember the exact story now. I think that the entrepreneur came up with new machinery to improve the efficiency of certain factories.
2 of us acted as machines by wearing cupboard boxes over ourselves and protested against a factory manager (another team member). Donning a cape, the entrepreneur (the fourth team member) “flew in” and saved the day. At the end of the skit, we played a short video that we created about the entrepreneur.
I can still remember that the music we used was “Eye of The Tiger”. We had so much fun singing along while preparing the presentation.
The teachers were so impressed that they made us present it again in the next class. Other teams had already left when we first presented because we were the last team to present and teams left after they have presented.
A lot has been said about happy teams performing better and from this experience, I feel that it’s true.
Because meetings are so enjoyable, we often look forward to the next meeting (or play session, depending on how you look at it, but we still get work done).
Although we did not win the Projects Day Competition in the second year, we were the only team from the Entrepreneurship Program to make it to the Grand Finals. I believe that it was because our team was the most fun and happiest team in the program.
While I love fun teams, I feel that there has to be a good balance between work and play. Someone in the team has to ensure that we do not have too much fun and end up not producing any results.
For this team, it was usually the team leader, Wen Shan, or I who would feel that we had enough fun and it’s time to get things done.
It also helped that every team member is responsible enough to understand that work has to be done.
We know how to have fun and we also know how to get things done.
(This is my 25th blog post of my 30in30 challenge — 30 blog posts in 30 days. Through this challenge, I hope to feel comfortable and more confident with writing and become better at writing.)