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The following article was written by Coleman Patterson and appeared in the Business section of the Abilene Reporter-News.

Making workplaces fun is productive, January 26, 2007, 7D.

If you are looking for a clean, fun, mindless, and uplifting experience, watch Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure on video.  It is the story of two high school friends who travel through time collecting “personages of historical significance” for use in a high school history presentation.  In one scene, Bill and Ted find themselves in the future and in the presence of an assembly of people who admire them as historically significant people.  Before leaving the future, they are prompted to say something to the group.  The words of wisdom that they utter are: “Be excellent to each other” and “Party on, dudes!”  Later in the movie, Abraham Lincoln used those same words to conclude Bill and Ted’s presentation to the high school student body during the history presentation.

The concepts described in the words of Bill and Ted have become quite popular in the management and organization fields in recent years.  The management philosophy at the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, Washington is one such example.  Their philosophy is that work should be fun and they realize that work and organizations are about people—the people who work in them and give them life and the people with whom they serve and work.  Visitors to the fish market witness workers being playful while working hard and giving extreme personal attention and service to each customer.  Workers learn to see customers as fellow human beings with individual needs and wants.  Respect, concern, and compassion for others make up the core of the “fish philosophy.” 

Without profitable exchanges with others outside of the organization, businesses will eventually go out of business.  Work has to be done.  The fish market chooses to conduct work in a fun and friendly environment.  It should not surprise anyone that places that are perceived as fun and enjoyable are preferred over those places that are not.  When people are free to enjoy each other, their work, and their organizations, they tend to be more satisfied with work, life, and themselves.   

From a motivational perspective, these philosophies operate on peoples’ higher-level needs.  When people focus on themselves and what they are personally getting or not getting from work and when they view work as simply a means to a paycheck rather than a way of helping and serving others, they can become overly absorbed with bettering themselves and can sometimes neglect bettering their customers and organizations.  Working in a culture that encourages members to focus on others and serve their needs, can help individuals grow and satisfy higher-level personal needs, such as esteem and self-actualization needs. 

When all organizational members, from first-level workers to top management, value and respect each other and their customers, suppliers, and other external constituents, good things happen.  When work is fun, meaningful, and enjoyable, workers tend to commit themselves more fully to their jobs and organizations.  This philosophy is not new.  Bill and Ted said it wonderfully, “Be excellent to each other…and party on, dudes!”

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© 2006, 2007, 2008  Coleman Patterson, All Rights Reserved