August 4, 2006
News & Opinion: Get Back In The Box - It's OK To Have Fun
This is the fourth in a series on Doug Rushkoff's Get Back In The Box.
The final theme I want to discuss is the importance Rushhoff puts on play. He says Apple is the company it is because Jobs let people have fun. He says companies do all sorts of things to make it difficult for their employees to play -- incentive bonus structures, short-term consultancies, and "business as war" mentalities.
That's right: the driving force behind our new renaissance society is play.
Sure, groups can organize around a variety of things: fear, patriotism, even hatred. But these are more suitable for armies than cultures. They require blind allegiance to a single idea on the commands of a leader, and are compromised by feedback or cross talk. They can't handle complexity, freedom, or natural selection. And because they tend not to be fun, they require enforcement. That means additional resources must be spent just maintaining cohesion, which eventually leads the whole enterprise towards diminishing returns
Play, on the other hand, allows for engagement on an entirely more voluntary and complex level. Participants in a successful brand culture are not cajoled or coerced into membership, but simply invited. Even the spread of media viruses--the word of mouth promoting products and ideas through culture--is a form of play. The reward, as in a game of "telephone," is seeing what the whole collective has wrought. We pass on tidbits of social currency because it's fun. The mediaspace becomes a kind of play space, where the object of the game is to get the most Web "hits" for one's homemade animated video, or to see if a media prank can get coverage on the national news.
In a renaissance society driven by the need to forge connections, play is the ultimate system for social currency. It's a way to try on new roles without committing to them for life. It's a way to test strategies of engagement without being defined by them forever. It's a way to rise above the seemingly high stakes of almost any situation and see it as the game probably is. It's a way to make one's enterprise a form of social currency from the beginning, and to guarantee a collaborative, playful, and altogether more productive path toward continual innovation.
Think Red Rubber Ball.