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Yes, we're quite serious about fun. We've even written a doctoral thesis, five books, and several dozen articles and research papers about this most weighty topic.
Dozens of serious, peer-reviewed studies have shown that positive emotions are associated with better long-term health and longevity, and that they also motivate us (as natural rewards) and stimulate effective thinking and relationship-building. In the world of work, this means a healthier and more motivated workforce, more innovation and productivity, better decision-making, closer-knit teams, and improved sales. Serious, bottom line stuff.
Also, the effects of positive emotions are not slight or trivial, but very serious indeed. For example, when a difficult problem-solving task was put to participants in several experiments by Cornell University Professor Alice Isen, only 11-16% of participants in the control groups were able to complete it successfully. However, in groups who previously experienced a positive emotion (for example by watching a 5-minute comedy video), 58-75% resolved the puzzle. The test used by Isen was not an abstract "creativity test", but a concrete task which required a specific answer to a difficult practical problem. And participants were five times more likely when they experienced a positive emotion. Serious enough for you?
Positive emotions can also help to offset stress, which is one of the main causes of work-related illness, and which impairs our ability to function to the best of our ability. The current economic climate is not making things any easier, and in this difficult environment positive emotions are becoming a scarce and ever-more valuable psychological resource.
Humour and play are usually the easiest, cheapest, and most sustainable way of fostering positive emotions in the workplace. This is why many successful and innovative companies such as Google, Southwest, Ben&Jerry's or Zappos have devoted so much effort to creating a fun and playful atmosphere in their workplaces. This is they latest winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics, Alexander Novoselov and Andre Geim, came across many of their revolutionary discoveries during their silly but often profitable "friday night experiments". And it's nothing new. Edison's Menlo Park laboratory featured a pipe organ, frequent practical jokes, and even a live bear ("Mr. Bruin") as a mascot.
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