Monthly Archives: October 2019

Fun is Not a Bonus; It’s a Must for Success

Reading time: 5 minutes

We all grew up in cultures that taught us to be serious about life and what we wanted to achieve in it. Otherwise, we wouldn’t survive either literally or figuratively, or both.

If we wanted to achieve anything in life, we had to work hard. And to underline this seriousness and determination, we learned to complain and surround whatever we wanted or had to do with drama.

Somehow, the opinion of having fun being in the way of achieving anything in life seemed to have established as being true in many human minds.

But interestingly enough, the opposite is the fact. And thanks to globalization and due to the internet growing connectedness on our planet, we have become more and more aware of the fact that having fun is not impeding success, but instead leading to it.

That is easier to see in the entertainment industry. When talking about fun, I love quoting Heidi Klum, a German-American supermodel and television personality, and one of the four judges on America’s Got Talent (AGT) between 2013 and early 2019.

After the results show of the AGT 2017 finals, a reporter asked Heidi what advice she would give to the winner, Darcy Lynn, a twelve-year-old ventriloquist. Without hesitating, Heidi answered, “Always to have fun. If you don’t have fun, it shows in your performance. That is always the key number one.”

But also in other areas, including the most technical and business ones, the experience of fun sets you on the path toward success.

“Fun is an extraordinarily valuable tool to address serious business pursuits like marketing, productivity enhancement, innovation, customer engagement, human resources, and sustainability.” — Kevin Werbach, For the Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business

Here is another quote about fun, which is one of my favorite quotes by my favorite authors on living in the moment, Ariel and Shya Kane: “We have come to realize if we are not having fun, we are moving in the wrong direction.”*

But how to find this “correct” direction. What is fun anyway?

Fun is a complex term made up of just three letters.

What is fun for us might not be fun for someone else. What we find fun is not only subjective to various persons but even to the same person in different circumstances. We might enjoy playing a game one day and not so much on another.

But there is a great thing about fun. However difficult it is to define it with words (I counted, for example, more than ten various definitions of fun in just a few chapters of the acclaimed book Theory of Fun for Game Design by Raph Koster**), we all know what it feels like for us.

Fun can show in different ways. One time while we have fun and enjoy something we laugh, and other times fully engulfed into a video game we play or fantasy novel we read, we frown and appear quite tensed from the outside. But we will still have fun!

There is another excellent feature of fun. You can discover it anywhere and in anything. Even in those activities, you claim as not being fun initially.

We can either discover fun when we give that project or activity a chance and approach it with curiosity and without prejudice (open to recognizing the fun factors in there), or we can bring fun elements into this project deliberately. Or better both.

How can we do this?

Curiosity and passion can help us here. I call them to be the other two siblings of fun in this inspirational triplet, one preceding and another succeeding the birth of fun at each moment. This triplet helped us, humans, to choose and pave earlier unfathomable paths. See References and Notes to read one of my favorite stories on how curiosity leads to passion and fantastic success.***

Fun also lead me to unexpected initially but utterly rewarding places. I wouldn’t have become an author if I hadn’t let myself “taste” the writing out of curiosity and let myself follow what felt healing, rewarding, rejuvenating, but most of all, fun for me. I tried various art forms in my life, including singing, playing guitar, painting, making jewelry, and decorations. But it was writing that turned out to be the best to express myself.

Through all that experience, I discovered that fun equaled wholehearted and rewarding engagement. And that is what defines successful projects and those involved in them. The latter are wholeheartedly engaged and experience this engagement as utterly satisfying.

References and Notes:


** Here are just five of the shortest ones:

  • “Fun is light, energetic, playful and…well…fun.” — Will Wright in the foreword
  • “Fun is all about our brains feeling good — the release of endorphins into our system.”
  • “Fun is the act of mastering a problem mentally.”
  • “Fun is contextual.”
  • “Fun is another word for learning.” — Raph Koster, Theory of Fun for Game Design

*** “I was in the cafeteria and some guy, fooling around, throws a plate in the air. As the plate went up in the air I saw it wobble, and I noticed the red medallion of Cornell on the plate going around. It was pretty obvious to me that the medallion went around faster than the wobbling. I had nothing to do, so I start figuring out the motion of the rotating plate. I discovered that when the angle is very slight, the medallion rotates twice as fast as the wobble rate—two to one. It came out of a complicated equation! I went on to work out equations for wobbles. Then I thought about how the electron orbits start to move in relativity. Then there’s the Dirac equation in electrodynamics. And then quantum electrodynamics. And before I knew it… the whole business that I got the Nobel prize for came from that piddling around with the wobbling plate.” — Richard P. Feynman, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! Adventures of a Curious Character

If you want to learn more:

Sign up to Optimist Writer’s Blog to follow the Gameful Project Management series.

Check out my coaching and consulting services to work directly with me.

Take a look into my book Self-Gamification Happiness Formula.

Go to this link for the list of all the resources I offer on Self-Gamification.

Designers and Players: The Main Feature of the Gameful Project Management

Reading time: 4 minutes

Acronyms: GPM = Gameful Project Management; SMG = Self-Motivational Game.

Of all four main components of games*, Self-Gamification emphasizes voluntary participation, which seems to me to be sometimes forgotten in gamified solutions and when serious games are developed. (We will consider the game components and their counterparts in real-life projects in a later post.)

When I was exploring and formulating the Self-Gamification approach in the book Self-Gamification Happiness Formula: How to Turn Your Life into Fun Games, I discovered that the main feature of turning anything in our lives into fun games is the following:

We are both the designers AND the players of our Self-Motivational Games (SMG).

Before reading this blog series or the book Self-Gamification Happiness Formula, you might have heard this statement as two separate ones:

  • “Be the designer of your life,” and
  • “Here is how you play the game called life.”

But I discovered that you couldn’t separate the two. We are both the designers AND the players of our daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, and so on games, be it at work, at home, or anywhere else.

That is especially true for project management.

Many brilliant resources on project management emphasize that successful project managers start with managing themselves**.
But how can we do it, I mean turn project management into games?
We can, for example, learn from other players and designers of self-motivational project management games.

Many gamers and skill learners nowadays learn from videos on YouTube and other media, watching how their fellow players play the games (or instruments) they love and succeed playing.

But designers learn that way too. They play other people’s games in the genre they are interested in and eagerly study and absorb each detail for inspiration.

Writers do that too. They learn from their peers and idols by reading books in the genres they write.

The project management game designers have even a better situation. They can learn not only from other project managers in their or different niches, but they can also learn from the game and play (toy) designers. They can absorb almost everything around them like a sponge, wringing out what doesn’t apply and keeping the fun for them bits to implement in their projects and work.

Above learning from others, the following question to yourself and your team (since project management includes team management***) can help to jump-start undoing even the tightest knots in your projects:

  • For yourself: “If my project was a game, and I was its designer (which I am!), how would I approach it so that I, as its player, can’t wait to start playing (engaging in it) and enjoy doing so when I do?”
  • For you and your team members: “If our project was a game, and we were its designers (which we are!), how would we approach it, so that we as its players can’t wait to start playing (engaging in it) and enjoy doing so when we do?”

When you ask yourself and your team this question, remember that no idea that appears is wrong. The main criterium to find out it is appropriate for you and your team is how fun it is.

In the next blog post, I will address the significance of fun for project management.


* “What defines a game are the goal, the rules, the feedback system, and voluntary participation. Everything else is an effort to reinforce and enhance these four core components.” — Jane McGonigal, Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World

** “It is a project manager’s job to organise everyone else, and you will be much more efficient at doing that if you can keep on top of your own activities. If you are clear about what you have to do next it will make it easier for you to organise other people and the work of your team.” — Elizabeth Harrin, Managing Yourself: Shortcuts to success

*** “Project management is no longer just about managing a process. It’s also about leading people—twenty-first-century people. This is a significant paradigm shift.” — Kory Kogon, Suzette Blakemore, James Wood, Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager

If you want to learn more:

Sign up to Optimist Writer’s Blog to follow the Gameful Project Management series.

Check out my coaching and consulting services to work directly with me.

Take a look into my book Self-Gamification Happiness Formula.

Go to this link for the list of all the resources I offer on Self-Gamification.

Defining Gameful Project Management

Reading time: 5 minutes

Acronyms: GPM = Gameful Project Management; SMG = Self-Motivational Game.

So gameful thinking and approach to anything are different from gamification and the process of creating serious games. It’s another,  in my opinion missing so far (because not clearly defined yet) component, of seeing and approaching real-life contexts as if they were games.

Let’s say (spell out) the two concepts we discussed in the previous two posts (“Gameful Project Management Versus Project Management Gamification” and “Gameful Project Management versus Serious Games”) and the one, upon which Gameful Project Management is based upon:

  • Gamification,
  • Serious Games, and
  • Self-Gamification

Note: This list is incomplete. There are game-based design and simulations that also profit from game elements and game design. Then games themselves, in their classical meaning along with play, make the list of those things that have to do with games (more or less) complete. If you would like to find out more on the distinctions between all these concepts, then I highly recommend that you read an excellent article by Andrzej Marczewski, where he defines these concepts and considers their differences and commonalities.*

For simplicity’s sake and for the purpose of this book, let’s limit or list just three: gamification, serious games, and self-gamification.

When applied to project management, the above list will become:

  • Project management gamification,
  • Serious games for project management,
  • Gameful project management.

I must say, gamification sounds to me as a process and games are the final products. So these lists might be confusing and pointing at different types of targets.

Even if I named the approach of turning my life as self-gamification, the more appropriate name for it would be “The Gameful Approach to Life.”
And the list above for project management reflects that well. In that list:

  • Project management gamification is a process of bringing game elements into project management processes.
  • Serious games for project management are full games created often to educate in the project management subject.
  • And Gameful Project Management is just that; it is a way to approach project management gamefully. Nothing else.

I started writing this blog series on gameful project management before I had the Self-Gamification Happiness Formula: How to Turn Your Life into Fun Games made as an audio-book. When I reviewed the audio recordings I read my book again or had it read while reading in the paperback copy of the book. I haven’t read the whole book between publishing the e-book and paperback versions and reviewing the audio-book, which was about four months. So, the book sounded at times new to me.

As I was re-reading it this time, which is while writing this blog series on the possibility to approach project management gamefully, I have realized how much the book is about project management too.

In fact, there are twenty-two occurrences of the phrase “project management” in five chapters and even in Conclusions the Self-Gamification Happiness Formula book.

Self-Gamification enables you to turn any- and everything into fun games, in other words, you can turn your whole life into fun games, if you wish so.

Gameful Project Management is Self-Gamification focused on the project management aspects.

I will address in another post of how project management is a steadfast part of all of our lives.

But for now, let’s consider the definitions of self-gamification and self-motivational games and then finalizing with summarizing the definition for the Gameful Project Management.

Here is how I defined Self-Gamification in the Self-Gamification Happiness Formula:

  • Self-gamification is the art of turning our own lives into games.
  • It is the application of game design elements to our own lives.
  • It is a self-help approach showing us how to be playful and gameful.
  • In self-gamification, we are both the designers AND the players of our self-motivational games.
  • Self-gamification is about creating uplifting emotions for ourselves and keeping ourselves “happily entertained” with whatever comes our way in our lives.

And here is the definition of the Self-Motivational Games (SMG):

  • A self-motivational game is a real-life project or activity that you adjust in such a way that it feels like a fun game with which you are eager and happy to engage, both in terms of its design and the playing of it.

Thus, any project, as well as the project management processes, can become an engaging and fun self-motivational game. When you approach project management gamefully, both as a designer and a player, you turn it into Gameful Project Management.

This can sound like a colorful salad of definitions, and it is. Games are such an embracing unity of various disciplines and inspirations for other parts of our lives that sometimes when you gamify something you might end up with a serious game and when you could consider a serious game also a gamified solution (such as a grammar games or other I mentioned in the previous blog post, ”Gameful Project Management versus Serious Games”). There is never a clear border between these definitions and there doesn’t have to be in my opinion, because we all will see the definitions slightly differently. (There is another fun article by Andrzej Marczewski on why the definitions of gamification, serious games and other are important, and why at the same time they are not that important.**)

All that being said, I invite you to find your own meaning of the Gameful Project Management but approaching it as the designer and player of it and invite your peers to co-design and play it together with you, since:

“Game design isn’t just a technological craft. It’s a twenty-first-century way of thinking and leading. And gameplay isn’t just a pastime. It’s a twenty-first-century way of working together to accomplish real change.” — Jane McGonigal, Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World




If you want to learn more:

Sign up to Optimist Writer’s Blog to follow the Gameful Project Management series.

Check out my coaching and consulting services to work directly with me.

Take a look into my book Self-Gamification Happiness Formula.

Go to this link for the list of all the resources I offer on Self-Gamification.

Gameful Project Management versus Serious Games

Reading time: 4 minutes

Acronyms and definitions: GPM = Gameful Project Management, SG = Self-Gamification; GPM is the application of SG to project management.

In the last post, we have discovered that Gameful Project Management (GPM), in other words, a gameful approach to project management, is not the same as project management gamification.

So, if it is not gamification, could the GPM or its outcome be a serious game or a collection of serious games?

After some research and contemplation, I realized that that wasn’t it either.

Here’s why.

Serious games are “full games that have been created for reasons other than pure entertainment.” — Andrzej Marczewski, Even Ninja Monkeys Like to Play: Unicorn Edition

In spite of being called “serious,” these games can be very much fun for their players. My son and his classmates love playing grammar and math games at school, which are a combination of learning grammar, math, and other subjects with a ball game or another fun sport activity.

On a more “serious” note, serious games are also used to bring awareness into the intricacy of such issues as patient care, vaccination, and many other for medical personnel*, as well as many other areas.**
So similarly to gamification, serious games also have the purpose of achieving a specific goal, which is often to educate but not exclusively so. For example, “Genes in Space,”*** is “a space shooter game that uses gameplay to map genomes to help the fight against cancer in the real world!” — Andrzej Marczewski, Even Ninja Monkeys Like to Play: Unicorn Edition

Here is a quote showing the common side of gamification and serious games:

“Serious games and gamification have in common that they both use game design and game elements (Marczewski, 2013) and they both serve a business purpose: increasing employee of customer engagement, improving the learning curve in education…The main difference between gamification and serious games is that gamification is not using gameplay where serious games do. Some of the most well-known examples of serious games are Plantville from Siemens (a serious game focused on educating plant management) and “Pass It On” from AXA Insurance (a serious game focused on personal financial planning) (Marczewski, 2013; AXA, 2011).”****

In contrast to that, the goal of the GPM is not aiming to increase productivity or motivation or engagement, to educate or facilitate learning. All these are the are byproducts of the GPM but not its goals.

The goal of GPM is to turn any project as well as the management part of it into fun, engaging games, of which you are both the designer and the player. GPM assumes that you are open to the possibility to see projects and project management tasks (regardless of whether you claim to like them or not) as games. When you see what you do like games and each of its components as a game component, then you quickly realize how to modify those components so that your projects and project management “games” entice the players, in other words, all involved in these projects.

The outcome of the GPM could be a serious game or a gamified solution, but it doesn’t’ have to be that way. The main outcome of GPM is the ability to see what you do as a game and approach it both as a designer and the player of it. In other words, it is about taking ownership of how these projects and project management games turn out to be, especially how fun and engaging they are for you and all involved, as players.

Thus, serious games are “created for reasons other than pure entertainment,” even though their players can be entertained and have fun while playing them. On the other hand, the Gameful Project Management can guide you to make your projects and project management processes entertaining and fun, regardless of whether you initially preferred doing them or not.

P.S. We will discuss the necessity of fun for your project and project management success in a later post.


* Focus Games in the UK create board games for these and other areas. Their page has a great collection of case studies for the serious games they develop:

** There are many successful companies creating serious games for various requirements. Many of them are also situated in Denmark (the country I live in). Here are just two of these:,


****; The references quoted in the article:

  • Marczewski, A. (2013, March). What’s the difference between Gamification and Serious Games? Retrieved on 29/08/2013 at
  • AXA. (2011). Company debuts the game of life…insurance. Press Release 13/09/2011.
If you want to learn more:

Sign up to Optimist Writer’s Blog to follow the Gameful Project Management series.

Check out my coaching and consulting services to work directly with me.

Take a look into my book Self-Gamification Happiness Formula.

Go to this link for the list of all the resources I offer on Self-Gamification.

Gameful Project Management Versus Project Management Gamification

Reading time: 5 minutes

When I first embarked on the adventure with Gameful Project Management, I couldn’t find many resources on approaching project management gamefully. I was searching for the following combination of words “gameful project management.” (See “Gameful Project Management: A New Blog Series Now, and Later More”.)

A bit later, still not believing there was nothing on it when there were so many gamified software solutions for project management out there, I searched for the combination of words “project management gamification.” And sure enough, there were many articles, at least one master thesis, and various books addressing the topic of project management and gamification one way or another.

I started reading eagerly, determined to learn from, and quote as many of the sources as possible.

But the more I read, the more I felt I was moving in the “wrong” direction. A quote by the award-winning authors Ariel and Shya Kane, whom I mentioned in the post “GPM and the Synergy of Three,” came to mind. They once said, “We have come to realize if we are not having fun, we are moving in the wrong direction.”

So I wondered, why reading about gamification and project management didn’t seem exciting and fun for me, even if I was very interested in the topic? Was I maybe mistaken thinking that Gameful Project Management and project management gamification were the same thing?

As I continued to read and learn, trying to approach the learning process anthropologically, in other words, non-judgmentally, I came across a gamification definition that gave me a key to my puzzle.
Here is this definition:

Gamification “is simply applying the techniques used in games in non-gaming contexts, in order to increase the involvement in the activities.”*

The addition in for of the words “in order to increase the involvement in the activities” to the classical definition of gamification** opened my eyes to the difference between gamification and a gameful approach to project management.

Here it is. Gamification has as its purpose of using game elements to improve one or more parameters in an organizational unit, wherever or whatever it might be.

However, the wish to change or manipulate something into changing, like to improve something, would be an impediment to turning your projects and project management into fun for you and all involved games. Because you won’t be simply playing a game. You will be too “stressed out” trying to achieve your goal. No game elements will make such an activity fun. (We addressed improvement in “GPM: Achieving Improvement Without Forcing It”).

When you choose to play a “traditional” game (those you want to play to have fun), you rarely try to improve your current situation or reach a certain outcome in any of your projects or your life.
You just play the game and enjoy it.

It is true that by choosing to play a fun game, you might be looking for improving your mood, but not in order to manipulate the status of your projects (or your life) in any way.

And as soon as you play the game, or start learning its description, your attention will shift from wanting to improve your mood to the goal and the rules of the game in front of you.

Thus, Gameful Project Management is the same as the gamification process of project management. It is not about distracting you from work either, although once in a while, having a healthy break could be beneficial.

It is about cultivating an ability to see what you do in your project and project management as a fun game (we will address this later in more detail). You both design AND play this game. So, Gameful Project Management is about giving you tools for supporting yourself in your work and bringing fun factor into your projects without trying to manipulate its outcome.

I am wondering whether this approach might be the solution for the current challenges the gamification solution designers face when they try to sell their products and services to their customers. Their customers and in some cases, the solution designers themselves too, don’t see their work and their projects as games. But this ability can help us all put the drama we tend to create about projects aside and instead find inspiration in games and bring their lightness, fun, and joy factors in whatever we do.

I know from experience that it is possible and easily achievable.

Here is how. Both providers of gamified solutions and customers, need to study themselves and each other, as well as their interactions anthropologically, that is non-judgmentally and with utter interest. And along with that, play games of designing and playing their project (and project management) games while using (and considering) the gamified solutions like exciting game gadgets and feedback systems, which they are.

P.S. Gameful Project Management doesn’t result in Serious Games either. I will address this topic in the next post.



** Gamification is “the use of game design elements in non-game contexts” — Deterding, S., Dixon, D., Khaled, R., & Nacke, L. (2011). From game design elements to gamefulness: defining gamification. In Proceedings of the 15th international academic MindTrek conference: Envisioning future media environments (pp. 9-15). ACM.

If you want to learn more:

Sign up to Optimist Writer’s Blog to follow the Gameful Project Management series.

Check out my coaching and consulting services to work directly with me.

Take a look into my book Self-Gamification Happiness Formula.

Go to this link for the list of all the resources I offer on Self-Gamification.