Fun vs Fear – Hope for the Holidays – December 2019

It’s hard to believe that 2019 is drawing to a close – and that I founded my company 30 years ago! THANK YOU for being on this exciting journey with me!  I’ll write more about lessons learned during this wild ride in 2020, but for now I wanted to share a special message for the holiday season, for all of us committed to leading positive and powerful change in our lives, organizations, and communities:

HAVE FUN!

Seems simplistic – even Pollyannaish, given all the serious challenges facing us today, locally and globally.  That’s actually one of the most common things I hear about Change Intelligence: “it’s so simple.” Yet that’s almost invariably followed-by ”but it’s not simplistic, because it’s powerful.”  Building CQ humanizes change, by the simple act of engaging the Heart, enlightening the Head, and equipping the Hands – empowering us all to collaborate together toward brighter futures.  Intentionally adding “fun” to the equation enables us as humans to function more effectively at every level – our brains, our bodies, and our behaviors. It’s not sugar-coating – it’s science:

Change makes us dumber – fun makes us smarter.  We know from neuroscience that to our brains, change equals pain.”  Conversely, laughter releases endorphins, the body’s natural pain killers.”  When we’re in threat mode, the oxygen that feeds our brain rushes below our necks to help us fight, flight, or flee.  When we’re in fun mode, laughter re-oxygenates our brains so we can actually think, more creatively and expansively.

When we are laughing, or at least having fun, dopamine floods into our brain, which “turns on learning centers in your brain so you can adapt in new ways.”

Voluminous research over decades in Positive Psychology clearly demonstrate benefits of fun, happiness and optimism spanning from increased innovation, to productivity, to job success.

Bottom line:
FUN is more powerful than fear!

Yet, so often when leading change, we’re advised to alarm people with a “burning platform” to incite them to jump into the cold sea of change. Sometimes there is a very legitimate threat and we need to mobilize with urgency to overcome. Some people argue that we should be “all business,” and many do indeed work in incredibly demanding industries or inherently hazardous environments, so “fun” can seem frivolous or even dangerous.

An analogy we hear in the change world frequently is how difficult it is to “turn the battleship around” when we are transforming a complex organization or an entrenched culture.  That’s why I love the leadership philosophy of former Commander Michael Abrahshoff, who DID lead a real battleship and DID turn it around.  He took command of the worst-performing $1B warship in the Pacific Fleet and made it #1 in twelve months.  In his words, “the secret to lasting change is to implement processes that people will enjoy carrying out. To that end, I focused my leadership efforts on encouraging people not only to find better ways to do their jobs, but also to have fun as they did them. And sometimes—actually, a lot of times—I encouraged them to have fun for fun’s sake.”

What ship can YOU turn around in 2020 by having more fun, and leading others to do the same?

Once again, it’s not either/or, it’s both/and.  When there’s a fire, we need our fear response to reactively survive the crisis of the day.  And, when our goal is to invent sustainable solutions to proactively thrive into the future, let’s have some fun!