Fun is a wicked problem! Being fun is the solution.

having fun
having fun in a group

How we understand fun can be problematic for our mental health.

I am convinced that being fun is more important than having fun; but not having fun as you might currently understand it

For much of the discussion on fun in the posts so far, I have written about fun as an object; an object to be desired, manufactured or weaponised — the need to ensure we are having fun. An object to be used in the pursuance of some other purpose; to control, to resist or to consume in the search of an illusory happiness. Through this frame of reference fun becomes part of a duality; something we have or do not have. Fun has as its antonym’s boredom, unpleasant, unhappy.

Understanding having fun, as a distraction, pushes us towards a conflict, encouraging to do all we can to avoid boredom and unhappiness, as if they were intrinsically bad. It is part of the western philosophical tradition to create endless loops of thesis-antithesis conflicts; subject/object, good/bad, theism/atheism without recognising that the boundaries between concepts are not that clear.

In upcoming posts, I will raise questions about our interpretation of events through the dualist lens, arguing that it is preferential to take a different perspective, to view events in a non-dualist manner. Indeed, when I started my PhD research, I wanted to counteract the bully/victim dualism that exists in the field of workplace bullying (and wider discussion on anti-social behaviour) as a recognition to the prevalence of both of mobbing and victim-bullying. Any situation is more complex than we initially view it to be, or even desire it to be.

In management literature, the challenge to dualism has led to the terms wicked (Rittel and Webber, 1972), or messy (Ackoff, 1979) problems to identify complex, many-sided phenomena. Rittel and Webber (1972) suggested that complex or wicked problems are characterised as unique problems, or situations, which can be viewed from more than one perspective, can never be resolved as there is no right or wrong answer, and where there is no real possibility of validation as each stakeholder can find a different explanation to suit their purpose.  Importantly, each problem is just one problem that resides within, or is a symptom of, another problem. Having fun at work, for example, is a wicked problem.

The different dimensions of fun, discussed in an earlier post, suggest that each person has a different understanding of what fun is. What is a positive source of fun for one person may have a negative impact on someone else, and each person will defend their use and understanding of fun. What’s more, the source of the problem is be found in the way we define fun as an object. Fun, as an object, has been transformed into a need; we must have fun, or we suffer the alternative — boredom or worse unhappiness. Some studies on workplace fun have suggested that employers are no longer regarded as being attractive to new recruits if they do not ensure their workers are having fun.

While employees generally do not want to be bored; however, in any area of life we are going to get bored and the nature of many workplaces, for example call centres, is that our jobs will, at times, be boring.

It is tempting to suggest that we need to learn how to live with being bored, certainly in my counselling practice I have seen clients who have been depressed because they regard their life as boring. However, I am not going to enter that debate, just yet, because boredom itself is a wicked problem and the debate will serve no purpose at this juncture; working with this category of client it is important to understand what they mean by fun.