I spent a chunk of today at a Meccano event at Abbey Pumping Station. The attached photo is of a Meccano reconstruction of a fairground fun house that paticularly impressed me. All in all we had a good time looking at and playing with Meccano. The kids got stuck in to some slightly more modern plastic Meccano and I spent a decent amount of time trying to stop their fingers disappearing into tiny intrectate motors which would undoubtely still have been able to do some damage.
I’m enormously impressed with the time and effort that the enthusiasts put into Meccano. I’ve never really got on with it myself, but I have had a variety of hobbies throughout my life. These have mainly revolved around music in some way, but there have been other enthusiasms that it is probably best not to dwell on e.g. hats, bikes, beer, various genres of film and a huge variety of TV related stuff (which is only on the border of a hobby, but nonetheless you get my point).
However as I walked around looking at the amazing constructions that people have build in Meccano I started to wonder what the impact on people’s wider lives was. I’m currently reading Charles Handy’s Understanding Organisations and one of the things that he talks about in his section on motivation is what he calls the “E value”. E stands for various things like “enthusiasm” and “energy”. Things that there are not fixed amounts of but which are also finite. As a manager we want people with lots of E, but we also want it to be directed towards organisational goals. So does investment of E in hobbies enhance performance at work and focus on career or does it actually create an alternative to it.
I’ve started Googling up some papers on this subject. Have a look at my CiteULike Hobby tab to see what I’ve found so far. I’d appreciate any other suggestions. Probably the most interesting thing that I’ve found so far is a book by Stephen Gelber called Hobbies: leisure and the culture of work in America. From a quick skim I can see that there is a lot of interesting stuff that might be worth thinking about more. For example:
As leisure, hobbies provided a respite from the normal demands of work, but as a particular form of productive leisure they expressed the deeper meaning of the work ethic and the free market. (p.2)Hobbies gained wide acceptance because they could condemn depersonalised factory and office work by compensating for its deficitis while simultaneously replicating both the skills and values of the workplace. (p.2)
Gelber also talks about how hobbies can stand in for work in the absence of work (retirement or unemployment). He also talks about how hobbies can stand in for a work-based career by providing those who engage in them with an alternative narrative of development and progression.
So how do careers professionals engage with hobbies. Is it the job of the careers professional to help people to consider what to do with their leisure time? Is it dangerous to be suggesting to people that value and personal development could exist outside of the labour market and the formal education system? Perhaps more importantly how would clients react if careers advisers started to ask them what they like to do on a Saturday afternoon rather than focusing on the Monday to Friday?
There is more thinking to do here. Is anyone else doing anything along these lines?