comedy hedge fun(d)

23 06 2011

I have a heavily suppressed competitive streak. People who rarely win tend to suppress it. Even deny it. I support Liverpool, so I guess that’s understandable. Now I am a regular runner the competitive streak peeps out a little more… though hopefully any (small) victories I have are tempered by the knowledge of what it is to regularly lose. I said hopefully.

going supersonic...

Recently I took part in some leadership training. Part of this was a day run by someone from an unfamiliar world to mine. As an inverted snob I have to make a special effort with the office-based chinos-and-polo shirt chaps, especially when you think they might actually play polo. Anyway, this friendly man with an elusive job description led us in a series of (admittedly great fun!) outdoor puzzles and games in order to stimulate our team-working brains and teach us lots of things that were quite obvious.

That many of us are not primarily motivated by winning. That competition doesn’t always work.

This wasn’t his aim.


He put us in boys & girls teams and set us the task of completing a jumbo jigsaw puzzle as quick as we could. He was very excited by the thought of a competition. We, on the other hand, were excited by the fact he had included “fun” on his list of essential factors in a team. So we decided to include in our timed puzzle challenge a comedy run from the nearby hedge. It was a sunny day after all.

This bothered him. But it will slow you down, he said.

Yes, we replied, but think what fun we’ll have!

We were both right. The girls team figured out a more efficient way of building the puzzle. It seems working in silence and the absence of a comedy run makes building quicker. But they looked so serious! We were actually not far behind them, and yet seemed to have a lot more fun. And winding up polo-man far outweighed the cost of not winning a little made-up competition.

We could draw many tenuous sweeping conclusions from this experience. I just throw it into the current political obsession with competition and market-forces being the solution to all problems. Competition may be the core motivation for a certain type of human in a certain type of environment. Like the ones in power. Wealthy successful white men love a competition especially when the dice is loaded so they always win. See banks. See Serco. See power companies. See privatisation.

Competition is not everyone’s motivating factor. Plain efficiency is not everyone’s aim. Think of farming – when efficiency becomes the primary motivation over love, care and time then the land starts falling apart and needing artificial help to stay productive. Like over-used fields many of us are needing artificial help to stay productive, in the form of tablets or alcohol or therapy. This is not  life in balance. This is not how we are meant to be.

Let’s not get drawn into constant competition to generate the mirage of perfect efficiency. We are all humans after all. There is no such thing as an economy, just humans relating to each other. So if you are a boss, if it is up to you, I invite you to lead by example and institute the comedy run today.

You may even find people work harder. I’m sure they’ll be happier.




10 responses

30 06 2011

Happy workers are almost always more productive workers, but competition can stimulate good work and inventive new practices too. I am not sure I would set competition or efficiency against fun, we all like to be part of a “successful” organisation, although some people do support Liverpool – it takes all sorts!

Maybe it is part of some basic protestant ethic to be against things and being against a market or competition is an element of this. Actually markets are of themselves benign and it is the people who make them ghood or bad, ethical or unethical.

1 07 2011

I’ve got nothing against competition, and I am not naive enough not to see the benefits in terms of creativity etc… I am just trying to pull the cart the other way a bit from being all about competition…

And I am not about being ‘against things’ because I am a protestant, because there are an awful lot of protestants who are as right-wing capitalist market-economy as you can get (see America). But I am against things when I sense injustice or unfairness, and so often the competition games played at high levels have greater impact on those at lower levels, i.e. the workers who have to meet the targets.

To put it the other way around, I am for fairness, I am for equality, I am for fair wages, I am for those nearer the bottom of the pile… and I am for the comedy run. And I am very for Isaiah 58!

30 06 2011

Brilliant as usual – thank you I needed a smile 🙂

1 07 2011
Phil Groom

It’s always a comedy run where I work: night shift in a supermarket. Trouble is the gaffers rarely find it funny (but on balance, they’re a friendly bunch and can take it on the chin)…

1 07 2011

The comedy run was worth it even for a competitive soul like me! I did the dad’s race at Rhianna’s sports day and although I didn’t embarrass myself I knew I was never gonna win and that taking part was the main thing. If it had been football though well that would have been different!!

2 07 2011

I’m not sure that I see fairness and equality in the Bible! God doesn’t make people equal, he gives some more gifts and others seemingly less. It isn’t fair that I was born into a family that made it out of povertyto a comfortable life but others I knew weren’t. It isn’t fair that some children are born into a family which abuses them and others have loving families. It isn’t fair that some abused kids are adopted into loving homes and others condemned to life in an institution. It isn’t fair that God allows some people to be movers and shakers in his kingdom and others to be sweepers and cleaners. Etc etc.

I think God’s economy doesn’t work on fairness and equality but on love. Sure a big part of love is helping others but we have to recognise that things never will be fair in this life. Will they be in the next one? Ah, now there’s a question!

2 07 2011

I agree in the way you mean fairness -life is not fair and god doesn’t promise it will be; even his own grace is not fair.

However, what I mean is that our responsibility is that we treat others – in this case our workers and employees – fairly, that we do our best, in whatever position we are in, to act fairly and justly where we can. Of course there will be times when we, like god, may act unfairly in giving grace and love where it is not “deserved”, but I think that is the only way we are justified in acting unfairly. Isn’t it?

4 07 2011

Surely love is only ever given when it isn’t deserved, isn’t it? If it is earned or deserved I don’t think it is love. I think you have a real problem defining what you mean by fairly though. These days it seems to mean equally, you might argue that the Bible means to each according to his needs, some would argue that it sufficient reward for the quality of their work.

The trouble is that PC Kant stops us exploring many of these thoughts, in favour of equality and uniformity.

Jesus said,” there was a man who had two sons. One went to university and dropped out of his course. He didn’t need financial support from his father as he got a job and made his way in the world. The other son went to university and stayed the course, so his father gave him financial support throughout the course. Was the father fair, or was he treating one son better than the other?” And the pharisees said unto him ….

4 07 2011

You make an interesting point when you say: “So if you are a boss, if it is up to you, I invite you to lead by example and institute the comedy run today.”
I’m sure there are many bosses caught up in target-driven environments whose management effectiveness could be improved by encouraging levity in the office. But in my experience there are also many bosses who understand very well the role that humour plays in motivating and inspiring their people and so they foster environments where that is encouraged and it becomes the norm to be able to enjoy yourself at work. I’m sure it’s a very mixed picture out there in the wider world of employment.
Most employers are serious about motivating and retaining their staff. They invest huge amounts of time and money in their people. I don’t think business is all about competitiveness and efficiencies (not that they are bad things, in any case) or that people are cogs in soulless factory farming labour production lines. And I believe that people are just as likely to experience po-faced, one-dimensional management in the church world as they are in the economic world. This is a sad and dispiriting thing to say, but I’m not convinced from my own observations that the church is a good employer. I would love to be told I’m wrong if you know better…
What strikes me most though is that many church leaders could benefit greatly from studying business leaders and adapting / adopting management techniques within the church. Church isn’t meant to be a business, I know, but good leadership transcends its circumstances and the church needs great leaders more than businesses do. Where are the great church leaders? Where are the very good ones? The standard isn’t as high as it should be.
What frustrates me most about the church is that leaders are usually ill-equipped to become the leaders that they have the potential to be. They just don’t get the training, support, performance measurement systems or higher management stimulation to fully develop their capabilities. They are usually left to their own devices and expected to work it out for themselves in the adventure playground that we call church. It’s no surprise that vicars and congregations are as stressed as they are sometimes and that our churches are often the most inefficient and ineffective things that we are part of. We all deserve better. And so does God, surely?
If the church understood the value of such basic things as achievable goals, measurable outcomes, effective management systems and dynamic performance, and actively challenged its leaders to become better leaders, I wonder if God’s Kingdom might feel more like a present reality than a distant hope?
Rant over….

5 07 2011

“And I believe that people are just as likely to experience po-faced, one-dimensional management in the church world as they are in the economic world”.
I agree! There are an awful lot of church leaders who could do with taking themselves less seriously, hitching up their cassocks and doing a comedy run!

“If the church understood the value of such basic things as achievable goals, measurable outcomes, effective management systems and dynamic performance, and actively challenged its leaders to become better leaders…”
I agree again (a dangerous habit!), however, these beg the questions of what are achievable goals and measurable outcomes? There is a lot of work done on church leadership, especially in niche markets like the New Wine network for whom it is a key component (as long as you are, white, middle-class and male of course!). But it is notoriously hard to come up with effective systems for managing and for developing performance.

This feels like a blog topic in its own right, but I am thinking of it like this, If each church is like a franchise, some leaders are like managers of a Starbucks in Bluewater, the one near the entrance; others are like the managers of the other one, tucked away in the Food Court. Are they comparable? Another is actually the manager of Bluewater. Another is the manager of Starbucks UK. Another manages Starbucks on the M3. Another manages a voluntary-staffed coffee shop just outside Bluewater. And in this weird imaginary world, the measurable outcome is not units of coffee sold, but the feeling of the colour pink. Who decides who feels pink? Should we concentrate on helping our customers feel pink, or sell them coffee?

Most employers are not the only paid staff in their company; most of their employees choose their roles based on their skills & interests, not the fact they happened to be going to that church so may as well be the treasurer. These are (some of!) the ponderables…!

What are you thinking?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: