Funny Business: How Humor Powers Creativity and Innovation

AM Smile

Laughter can do more than help us pass the time at Disneyland or shake off an unpleasant day; its power can help leaders foster creativity and innovation within their organizations.

Yet laughter is often absent in professional settings. Professors Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas from Stanford Graduate School of Business want to change this.

How Humor Powers Creativity & Innovation

Humor isn't simply an entertaining approach to problem-solving; it's an integral component of creative problem-solving. According to research, those exposed to humor during creative work tend to come up with more creative solutions, be more open-minded in thinking outside the box, and solve complex problems more quickly and creatively. Humor plays an integral part in building positive work environments while mitigating criticism or resistance toward new ideas.

Israeli psychologist Avner Ziv conducted an innovative experiment where high school students listened to comedian Amir Abdusalam prior to taking a standardized creativity test. Students exposed to Abdusalam scored significantly higher than their control counterparts due to laughter's impact on posterior temporal lobes that help us identify incongruities and find solutions.

Studies have also demonstrated the same phenomenon within the context of creative processes in general. People who engage more humorously during creative processes produce more ideas, are better at seeing connections between seemingly disparate concepts, and provide innovative solutions that come from outside-of-the-box solutions - since both humor and creativity involve breaking certain frames while forging non-obvious connections between seemingly incongruous elements.

Funny Business brings together all we know about how humor can enhance creativity and innovation at work, drawing from findings by behavioral scientists, top comedians, and inspiring business leaders - including an emphasis on making levity part of your leadership style and organizational culture.

Art Buchwald, one of the legendary political humorists, as told through never-before-seen documents and photos is the subject of this captivating and eye-opening book, complete with Washington Post columns that made his name. Showcasing never-before-seen documents and photographs from Buchwald's life and work - including depression struggles he overcame through writing--is illuminated here through never-before seen documents and photos, making this "funny yet revealing" book the perfect companion piece to Funny Business: How Humor Powers Creativity & Innovation by journalist Jon Meacham.

Why Humor Matters in the Workplace

Humor is an integral element of a playful and creative work environment. More than just making people laugh, humor can provide a safe space for creative ideas to flourish by lowering social anxiety levels allowing individuals to take risks more comfortably in front of others; and reducing stress while creating psychological safety allowing individuals to trust that their ideas will be received without criticism or ridicule from peers.

Studies demonstrate that when humorous leaders are present, employees report higher levels of creativity and problem solving. It's important to keep in mind that the relationship between humor and these outcomes can be complex; one study found that its effects were modified by individual psychological capital levels as well as organizational culture influences; thus further research needs to be completed in this area.

Humor can be an effective tool to strengthen relationships and increase team and organizational effectiveness when used appropriately, but understanding its many forms and applying these distinctions in a leadership context are both essential. Sarcasm and teasing have been shown to be successful when used constructively, helping strengthen work relationships; but one should remain mindful of any negative ramifications when used as derogatory or threatening humor.

Affiliative humor emphasizes creating relationships among peers by building bridges between them, generally without demeaning themselves or derogatory remarks about their appearance or self-worth. It is the most prevalent type of humor in the workplace and has been linked with positive work outcomes. Affiliative humor also helps foster teamwork by strengthening collaboration and knowledge-sharing among employees. In leadership contexts, affiliative humor may foster strong teamwork by increasing team cohesion as well as strengthening collaborative working styles and increasing knowledge-sharing.

Punitive humor can be highly ineffective and lead to the erosion of trust and cooperation. It is crucial that leadership and humor interact in various ways within individuals, couples, teams, organizations and cultures, with gender, age and cultural influences playing key roles.

How to Use Humor in the Workplace

Humor can elevate team morale, reduce stress and foster collaboration - particularly in remote work situations - but only when used appropriately, according to a Stanford MBA course taught by Jennifer Aaker and Mary Bagdonas. However, humor should never be forced or contrived, nor used against people or topics considered sensitive.

Humor in the workplace can be an invaluable tool for building relationships and creating psychological safety among teams, which are key components to creativity and innovation, according to Aaker and Bagdonas. "Humor can help us think outside the box by shifting gears into more creative and productive modes," they write, as well as being an essential form of social bonding.

Leaders tend to initiate humor among employees, though employees themselves can take part in its implementation (Rogerson-Revell). When leaders use humor as an influence on employee participation levels, its effects may be amplified (Rogerson-Revell).

Applying the appropriate type of humor at work is paramount. Sarcasm can easily lead to backfire if its recipient perceives they are being ridiculed while self-deprecating humor may come across as insincere when used before superiors (Gkorezis and Bellou). When applying humor at work it's also crucial that context and relationships between participants be considered, as these factors could act as mediators or moderators between jokes and leadership outcomes.

Aaker and Bagdonas demonstrated in their TED Talk that team members who regularly engage in humor can not only increase creativity but also gain the flexibility necessary to tackle more complex problems through creative, lateral thinking. Laughter stimulates our brain and contributes to creating an upbeat mood, increasing our capacity to find alternative approaches to problems. Plus, laughter releases feel-good hormones like endorphins and dopamine that boost physical health and help make us happier overall! So it should come as no surprise that Aaker and Bagdonas also report that employees working in playful environments tend to be more engaged, loyal, and willing to go the extra mile for their employers. Recognizing these behaviors that add levity to the workplace can reinforce its positive effects while encouraging more of its prevalence in future workplaces.

The Power of Humor

Employing humor can make you an effective leader and improve the morale of employees, but it is crucial that you know when and how to use humor appropriately in the workplace - you should never use jokes that could offend someone or cause distress to anyone.

Employing humor as part of leadership can boost employee job satisfaction and commitment to your organization, promote higher levels of creativity and innovation, reduce workplace stressors, make you more approachable as an administrator, increase likability and make you a more approachable leader - but use caution not overusing humor as this could backfire and be perceived by your followers as insensitive or arrogant.

Over the past four decades, research on humor has advanced significantly, leading to various approaches for understanding and measuring humor. At first, this focussed on individual and interpersonal processes; later researchers began exploring wider contextual factors that affect humor's effects; Finally scholars have started exploring leadership as it relates to humor.

There are many unanswered questions related to humor's place in leadership, such as: 1) Can humor be learned and developed? If so, what are its antecedents and mediating factors? 2) How does personality type interact with humor? 3) Is there any gender differences when developing and using humor? 4) What is the relationship between humor and leadership effectiveness?

While we have made significant strides towards understanding the function and effect of humor in leadership, many gaps still exist. Particularly, we require further study on the interaction between leadership and humor - including both direct and indirect effects as well as mediating variables that exacerbate or moderate their effects - which is urgently required.

Future research should investigate the effects of culture on the interaction between leadership and humor by conducting cross-cultural comparisons as well as within-culture studies. Examining cultural context is also key as it influences both its effectiveness as well as how leaders utilize humor.


Post a Comment

Post a Comment (0)

Previous Post Next Post