Wednesday, November 20

Humor Me - Part II

As I mentioned in my recent blog video, the recent Cocktails & Conversation event at the Schiller Center focused on humor.  Our featured guest was my longtime friend and colleague, Andrea Fuller. Andrea is a strategic and business planning consultant and founder and CEO of MindFarm, a placement firm with the motto “Life is short. Work with good people.”  Did I mention that Andrea is a stand-up comedian?  Consequently, it was no surprise that we attracted a great group, who thoroughly enjoyed Andrea’s hilarious take on the rampant hypocracies in the DC metro area.  Letting loose, lightening up, and laughing at ourselves was fun that evening.  Unfortunately, it isn’t always that easy in the workplace. 

But do we really need to have humor at work?  Do we need to laugh and cut loose?  The answer for most organizations is a resounding YES.  In fact, I believe the health of an organization is often directly related to whether or not the employees are having fun.  Not only is it important for employees to be able to laugh and have fun in order for them to enjoy work, to stay healthy and relaxed, and to be able to produce their best work, but humor itself can also stimulate a valuable type of creativity and innovation that is otherwise hard to come by. 

Over my many years working with all different types of organizations, I have frequently observed that when a person or team is experiencing “ha-has”, they spontaneously trigger “ah-has”.  Humor, or “ha-has” are created when you are thinking along a path and then veer off; the punch line is unexpected.  New discoveries, or “ah has” happen when someone is thinking along an anticipated course, then takes a sudden unexpected turn.  Because “ah has” are structurally parallel to “ha has,” creative breakthroughs often come in environments that are playful.  

One interesting note is that the more “experts” you have in a group, the longer it takes to get to either ha-has or ah-has.  For instance, ask a group of bird watchers to brainstorm the names of birds, and they can list hundreds—all very serious, with their brains in “recall” mode.  But ask a group who are not experts on birds to brainstorm the names of birds, and it isn’t long before they’re coming up with “Firebird, Larry Bird, Big Bird, the Cardinals”—and laughing at their breakthroughs, as their minds search for items that might be categorized as birds.  This has serious consequences if you want creativity from a group, but have one or more “experts” in the mix!

No comments: