Some 77 percent of CEOs struggle to find the creativity and innovation skills they need, according to a PwC study. But those very skills are cultivated in fun company environments, says University of Colorado Denver Director of Academic Technology David Thomas, who researches the theory and design of fun objects, processes and places.
Not enough companies put fun at the top of their list of important attributes, Thomas says. Yet, leading companies like Zappos, Geek Squad, and Google are notorious for their lively, fun environments, creating cool office spaces and putting employees’ happiness at the forefront of what they do.
“There’s been a notable change in the workplace over the last 20 years,” says Thomas, who is also an assistant professor attendant in the College of Architecture and Planning. “Dot-com companies ushered in the foosball table in the break room and let people bring their dogs to work, reminding us all that work and fun can coexist. An enjoyable environment inspires motivation, innovation, creativity and engagement among employees.”
On April 27, 2018, Thomas will deliver a three-hour workshop at CU South Denver, titled, “ROI of Fun at Work.” He’ll explore the theory behind a fun workplace being a successful workplace, but the workshop is intended to take a practical look at how to bring a playful mindset to an organization. Participants will gain an understanding of the core set of design skills for encouraging fun in the workplace, have an opportunity to practice those skills, and build a list of specific actions to take when they return to their offices.
“Every leader wants to know how to keep spirits up and motivate their people, and many just want a little justification for the fun things they already do at their companies,” Thomas says. “I want to share why fun is not just okay, but good for a company’s bottom line.”
For his entire career, Thomas has balanced traditionally serious jobs—like director of learning architecture for Pearson Learning Solutions—with fun side endeavors—like being the video game columnist for The Denver Post for much of the 2000s. He came to CU Denver in 2002 and has taught in the College of Architecture and Planning since 2013—everything from video gaming to the architecture of fun. These days, he runs CU Online.
Thomas has presented to students and leaders across CU and was a speaker at Denver Startup Week 2017. He holds a Ph.D. in architecture, but with his video game journalism background, Thomas became interested in fun from a practical perspective. “I’ve translated the aesthetics of fun in video games and architecture into the realm of business,” he says. “The business world seems highly interested in embracing fun as a way to motivate and retain people. There are great examples out there of companies that allow for play in their business structure and see the benefits.”
ROI of Fun at Work is open to any professional looking to improve workplace productivity and culture, including organizational leaders, managers, team leaders and human resources professionals. Registration is $225 and space is limited.