Innovation Should be Fun

written by Kat Bair
4 · 12 · 22
People laughing their faces off at a Denver Hatchathon.

Are you having fun?

When was the last time you did something that was truly fun?

Not something that was supposed to be fun (birthday dinner for an acquaintance, aimlessly crushing candies on your phone, a spin class you pretend to like), but actually fun? Like so fun, you lost yourself in it, so fun that you couldn’t stop smiling, and it left you floating for the rest of the day?

In her book, The Power of Fun: How to Feel Alive Again, Catherine Price argues that fun, true fun, is an innate drive of humans (and many animals) and is core to our well-being, creativity, relationships, and even physical health. She also argues that adults can be really bad at it. 

She defines “true fun” as the sweet spot where playfulness, connection, and flow intersect. Playfulness seems like the most definitional aspect of fun, but she argues that the other two elements are as essential. For most of us, if we think of some of our peak fun experiences, we imagine stories that rely on connection with other people, even if they’re strangers at a concert or casual friends at a party. Flow is a bit more ambiguous to those outside the productivity maximization jargon (particularly silicon valley-style productivity obsession). 

Flow is when you become focused on and engrossed in a task. My partner is a video game programmer, and he loves to get sucked into hours-long (in his words) “coding binges” where he is engrossed in a complex and exciting task. But, as much as staring at code on a screen for 6 hours sounds like torture to me, for him, it is, in its way, fun. 

When I started working with Ministry Incubators, I had a conversation with one of our founders, Dr. Kenda Creasy Dean, and she asked me what the appeal of ministry innovation was to me specifically. While I wanted to be able to answer with some rich theology or mission statement, the answer was much more simple: 

Innovation work is fun.

Innovation work is fun. 

It shouldn’t be a surprising answer. In Price’s matrix, innovation has all the elements that lead to fun. Innovation requires deep thinking, problem-solving, and analysis that can only result from flow. In Ministry Incubator’s model, innovation is done as part of a team, resulting in the deep connection of a shared mission. 

Finally, innovation is playful. Most of Ministry Incubator’s most powerful tools and modules are games. From Discipleship by Design’s innovation games to the innovation games of Rooted Good, to games emerging from Princeton’s Institute for Youth Ministry, to dozens of other modules, activities intentionally designed to be playful are at the heart of how Ministry Incubators encourages innovation!

Innovation, playfulness, and fun don’t just make us feel alive and excited on accident; they are reflections of the very image of our Creator. What could you call a God who created pungent flowers,  loud bullfrogs, and jellyfish that light up rainbow colors other than playful? God breathed all of creation into being for the joy of it and continually invites us to witness God’s continuing movement of creation. 

“Look! I’m doing a new thing;

    now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it?

I’m making a way in the desert,

    paths in the wilderness.”

Isaiah 43:19

Add the fun in.

Where in your world could you embrace a bit more of the fun? The work of innovation you are doing has all the elements of being truly fun, but we sometimes miss the chance by taking ourselves a bit too seriously. Where could you recognize the playfulness inherent in your work and allow yourself to truly become immersed in it?

Here are some ideas from Ministry Incubator’s innovation games and Price’s book on how to add some fun it (or spot where it was all along):

  • If your group gets stuck brainstorming, list all of the worst possible ideas you all can come up with. 
  • Utilize Discipleship by Designs “Blow up Your Idea” game to pose questions such as – “How could you incorporate fanny packs into your idea?” “How would your idea be impacted by an alien invasion?” 
  • Make an intentional effort to connect with those you interact with in your work and baristas, clients, or customer support agents. 
    • If you don’t have a chance to authentically connect with people around you, make a connection up – it’s much harder to be annoyed by an IT manager once you’ve decided they are a famous actor researching a role or an undercover agent who the CIA forgot they sent. 
  • Walk the long way to work because you know you’ll see that cute dog and walk by the bakery you like. 
  • Block out 2 hours on your schedule to devote to the part of your job you just love. Emails will wait. 

Innovation is fun if we let it be. Notice moments of playfulness, connection, and flow in your day-to-day life, and don’t be afraid to embrace fun when you see it. 


Kat Bair

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