Should Training Be Fun?

There was a discussion on social media this week around the necessity of fun in training. I stared at the post for a long time and trying to decide if, in fact, fun is something that should be included in all training. I spent a lot of time thinking about this over the last 24 hours, and think this is an interesting conversation we should be having in L&D.

What is Fun?

What I do for fun is unlikely to be what you see as fun. The bigger the training room, the more diversity in how fun is characterized. This is good, we want diversity in our training room whenever possible. Beyond what we like to do for fun, there is also a level of comfort people have to participate in certain activities and participants tend to approach training with a certain attitude and that can affect what happens during the course time. Walking into an interactive training that lends itself to entertaining activities with a room full of friendly participants is bound to be a different experience than teaching a group of people about inappropriate behavior after disciplinary action.

I think people have an oversimplification of the word fun. Things needn’t be funny to be fun, nor does the training need to be overly light-hearted. Fun is about stimulation and engagement. While I love training that involves games, dancing, and laughing, I know that not all training lends itself to those things. I do aim, however, to have several moments where participants are smiling and nodding leading to participating in earnest because they are engaged and learning. That is how I see the fun in training.

Why can’t all training be fun?

Is every training I write fun for every person who takes it? Maybe not, but that doesn’t mean I am going to give up trying to infuse fun in every course. One of the most fun I’ve ever had in training outside of this job was in a diversity workshop. We laughed, we cried, and I left feeling engaged with every participant in that training. There were uncomfortable moments, and then we broke down those walls. It was fun, and it inspires me often when I design.

In sum, maybe not all training IS fun, but I believe it is more engaging when it is designed to include fun. What are your thoughts on the fun in training? Let’s talk about it in the comments below. 

7 thoughts on “Should Training Be Fun?

  1. “Fun”, like beauty, is totally in the eyes of the beholder.

    Your idea of “fun” is my idea of inappropriate silliness.

    Same with music in the training room.

    The great Harold Stolovich calls these attempts at entertainment something like “attractive distractions.”

    It all depends on the target audience demographics, the subject matter, and many other cultural/social factors.

    • I totally agree, fun can be in the eyes of the beholder. It is interesting you suggest music and silliness specifically. I think those two things can be used inappropriately. I wonder how many trainers put in activities that are not appropriate in an effort to make the training seem more fun when it isn’t appropriate when what they really should be doing is increasing engagement.
      Thanks for your comments, Kent.

      • “I wonder how many trainers put in activities that are not appropriate in an effort to make the training seem more fun when it isn’t appropriate when what they really should be doing is increasing engagement.”

        Exactly!

        This is why “fun” is probably not a good goal. Unless you have a target group that is all exactly the same demographic in every way (not likely), AND you are totally plugged in to that demographic’s idea of “fun,” then attempts to create “fun” are very likely to cause as many problems as they solve.

        Engagement. Relevance to the job. Practice. Any of those might be better goals than “fun.”

  2. I agree with you that there should be some element of “fun” infused in training. Bob Pike has said, “Learning is directly proportional to the amount of fun you have.” It doesn’t have to be rip-snortin’ the whole day, but fun helps take the edge off. Fun helps keep them engaged. And fun helps them remember.

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