Making Work As Natural As Play

When he published [easyazon_link asin=”0071462228″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”achievstrate-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”default”]The Human Side of Enterprise[/easyazon_link] (1960) D. McGregor could not possibly have envisioned that his Y-theory would, 50 years later, dictate how the office is run. According to such theory, consistent with the work of A. Maslow, ‘work’ is as natural as ‘play’.

Present day managers can only agree; long gone are the days where one had to rely on threat and coercion to obtain employees’ compliance. People are problem-solvers and are indeed willing to use their set of skills and talents beyond the core of what they have been employed to do. And that is precisely where today’s problem possibly lies: whilst the pin-factory model has disappeared, A. Smith’s underlying principles of ‘specialization of labour’ are still very patent in spite of all that is done for personal development and growth. The direct consequence of this is that people’s talents are largely underused in most contemporary organizations. Today’s organizations should be fluid – so fluid that specialty/expertise can be tapped into at any time, from anywhere.

This rather slow transformation from ‘flat’ to ‘fluid’ organizations has dramatic direct consequences for both the Corporation and the economy overall. The latest findings from Gallup for instance indicate that with 70% of all American workers ‘not engaged’ or ‘actively disengaged’ the U.S. economy (only) is losing a staggering $500 billion a year in lost productivity. So to stop the bleeding, the real question is how do we engage employees in their work? How do we create an environment where ‘work’ becomes as natural as ‘play’? By ‘work as natural as play’, the reader will have understood that I am not suggesting that work shall be ‘fun’, lighthearted and the like because clearly it cannot be. What I mean here is to render work personally rewarding.

For example, we know from thousands of years worth of data that people are wired to move forward, to compete – think ‘animal spirits’, think about one’s desire to challenge oneself and/or to challenge others and to come on-top. In one of our assignments, we turned something utterly tedious into something literally thrilling.

Today’s organizations should be fluid – so fluid that specialty/expertise can be tapped into at any time, from anywhere.

One of our clients had the goal of reducing its tied-up capital. The traditional way of achieving this would commend the use of ERP systems and that of complex supply-chain interventions over a lengthy period of time. This very process-reengineering would only concern a few specific functions, and would be far from exhilarating. But the traditional ways had failed to deliver because to reduce capital actually touches departments far beyond the warehouse and the logistics folks. For example, it touches sales and those guys could not care less about accounting principles and stocking – simply because it is not part of their jobs i.e. the way their success is measured. What was simply needed was to tweak the ‘rules of the game’ and to incentivize the right people so as to drive the right behaviors. In other words, by turning a predictable work process that had always led to the corresponding predictable sub-optimal outcomes into something fresh that talked to people’s EQ, we managed to make ‘work as natural as play’.

Gartner, the technology research firm, predicts that by 2015 more than 50% of organizations will have gamified at least one their core processes. So the question is, do you have a layer of fun on top of your office?


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Arnaud Henneville

Arnaud Henneville, MBA is a co-founder and CEO at Arnaud is a regular corporate speaker on the topics of Strategy Execution, Behavioral Change, Employee Engagement and, Gamification in the Workplace. Arnaud also guest-lectures at the University of Leicester, School of Management (UK)., is a communication software for companies that need custom-made solutions. Each platform contains a set of different modules that can be changed according to the customer’s initial and ongoing needs. Why? Because one size does not fit all. Our clients include GE, Peugeot-Citroën, Absolut, Atlas Copco, UPM and so many more. For more information,

  • Rob Salafia

    Play creates a conducive environment for people to become self actualized human beings. This is when people do their best work. Directly in line with the humanistic approach of congruence by Carl Rogers.

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