Philosophy Talking Point

Fun Theory and the Extraordinary Power of Fun

Fun Theory
Written by Stuart Wickes

The Fun Theory

There are grand and complex theories of change and simple ones too. The fun theory is a simple one. Put simply it says if you want to get people to change their behaviour, make what you want them to do novel and fun. That’s it. It’s a very simple and useful idea.

Fun theory in action - on a trampoline

A simple solution to a complex challenge

If you’ve read even just a little of this blog, you’ll know I believe it’s healthier for kids (and grown-ups too) to be active, outdoors and tuned-in to nature. But it’s not easy making that happen in today’s digitally immersive, 24/7, always on, internet-dependent society. In fact just getting someone’s attention can feel like rolling rocks uphill.  So I’m not surprised we get lots of questions about how we motivate ourselves, the kids and each other to do some of the things we do. Fortunately, unlike the problems of technology, I find the answer is, in part, very simple; work hard to make things fun.

How do you get kids out in the rain? Fun theory says - make it fun

How do you get kids out in the rain? Fun theory says – make it fun

Novelty + fun = engagement

Fun theory tells us that novelty makes things interesting and making something fun makes it feel good. When something is both novel and fun, it becomes intrinsically rewarding and we love doing it. What’s more, it can have a lasting effect, because when you do something fun you not only feel good about what you’re doing at the time, but afterwards you want to do it again. Fun can be mildly addictive which makes it powerful stuff.

Fun is so powerful it can turn mundane and apparently ‘boring’ things into attractive options. Just think of the recent PokemonGo! phenomena and how it incited all sorts of normally sedentary gamers to get out of their bedrooms and go running around looking for pokemons. Without any nagging, cajoling, incentives or lectures on the benefits of getting out and exercising. That’s the power of fun. It makes people want to do things.

Making ‘boring’ things fun

It just goes to show that fun can be used for serious purposes. Fun theory has been used to motivate people to do all kinds of ‘boring’ things. Like, using the stairs instead of an escalator.

Or recycling more glass bottles.

Even putting litter in a bin.

Fun is a serious business

So fun has a serious purpose and as you can see in the videos, if you set things up right, it can get serious results. It’s catchy too. When something looks like fun, others get interested in joining in too, creating a kind of a virtuous viral spiral of engagement.

So next time you are trying to persuade the kids to leave their bedrooms and come out on that ‘boring’ walk or you’re trying to cajole your partner into that ‘boring’ sounding adventure of a lifetime, stop before you start persuading, think of the fun theory and see if you can find the fun in the idea, not just for you but for them. If you can find a way to reframe, replan or reinvent your idea so it really will be fun for them, you might just find they’re on board without you really trying. After all, who doesn’t want to join in something imaginative and fun?

Talking Point

Do you believe in the power of fun? How do you inject fun into your travels and adventures? Do leave a comment and let us know.

About the author

Stuart Wickes

Stuart's the adventure addict half of the team, always trying to persuade the family to get out, do more, go further. As co-founder and co-director he handles the business, creative, design, technical and publishing aspects of the project. He is our chief photographer and videographer. With training as a professional learning and development consultant. an engineer and musician, his contribution is eclectic and unpredictable!

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