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Cultivating Innovation and Creativity With Laughter

Bob Little 

January 19, 2018

How important is laughter in the creative process? Well, the innovation/creativity specialist and comedy writer, Tim Reid, believes that “there’s a moment in every brainstorming session that changes everything. It’s when someone says something that makes everyone else laugh.”

Reid is a BAFTA winner and the co-writer of the British sitcom, “Peter Kay’s Car Share.” As a consultant, he’s helped clients in numerous sectors to reimagine the future and reinvent their businesses.

When it comes to innovation – especially in times of uncertainty – you need to be able to think quickly and creatively, Reid says. Moreover, you must harness brainpower across your teams, with the right tools and energy to be able to adapt and make the most of changing circumstances and new opportunities.

The Best Ideas Come With Laughter

David Ogilvy, the founder of Ogilvy & Mather advertising agency, is quoted as saying, “The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible.” Reid adds, “The bigger the problem or challenge that you have, the more you need to look for the joke and laughter as you search for answers.

“Two things make us laugh,” Reid continues, “the truth and surprise. We laugh at characters in ‘The Office,’ such as David Brent [in the U.K.] and Michael Scott [in the U.S.] because we all know someone like that. They portray something – and someone – we know to be ‘true.’

“Similarly, truth and surprise are the ingredients of any great innovation,” he adds. “It must have some truth in it – along with a surprise element of ‘that’s not quite how I see the world.’”

The Creativity Double Act

To see what it is about jokes and laughter that we can use in innovation, we must consider the “creativity double act.” The first element is how we think and behave. The second is the process, and the tools that can help you.

Reid suggests that, to encourage creative behaviors, you should be:

  • Playful. Avoid being critical or judgmental about ideas.
  • Brave. Don’t think, “What if there’s no laughter?” but, rather, “I hope this makes them laugh.”
  • Intuitive. Go with your gut feeling when you have an original idea.
  • Nurturing. Creativity is a team sport, and the best ideas come from groups. It’s vital that nobody kills another’s ideas. Ideas need to be nurtured, as early on they’re vulnerable to the impact of a negative response.

Here Comes the SUN

Reid recommends that, when inviting ideas, you use the acronym “SUN”:

  • Suspend judgment.
  • Take time to Understand the idea.
  • Nurture the idea.

“Done correctly, everyone feels ownership of the idea – not just the person whose idea it was. In turn, that helps make the idea happen,” he says.

Tools and Techniques for Creativity and Innovation

Turning to the tools and techniques involved in innovation and creativity, Reid explains the power of stimulus. He says, “You can’t have ideas in a void, and don’t jump to conclusions.

“When we encounter something that’s seemingly ‘new’ – such as an idea – our brain’s hardwired response is to search our memory to discover if we’ve come across this before, as a means of reference and understanding,” he adds.

“So, the brain’s first, instinctive, response to any new idea is to say, ‘We’ve seen it before – and it didn’t work then.’”

Five Stimuli and the Brain Trick

“If a new idea is to get the chance to survive, we need a new stimulus to trick our brains,” says Reid. He offers five examples:

  • Spin it. What if we turn this idea on its head?
  • Steal it. Whatever the challenge, someone’s tackled it before. Ask, “How can we adopt or apply that to our challenge?”
  • Act it. Try to act out the idea. That may produce further, useful ideas.
  • Chance it. This involves team members forcing a link from their problem to a random piece of stimulus. In other words, you bring together two things never linked before. Fill a box with “random things,” invite team members to take one out and make a connection between it and the current challenge or problem.
  • Push it. Whether it’s a joke or an idea, ask, “How far can we push this?”

Enjoy the Laughter, Then Get Serious

“To get creative, you must keep having better ideas,” says Reid, “and that means making your thinking as funny as possible.”

“There’s a difference between being serious and being playful,” he adds. “Don’t be playful all the time, but it’s essential to be playful first – before becoming serious about addressing a problem. Begin any such session by saying something like, “We’re here to think differently, so we’re going to behave differently.’”

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One comment on “Cultivating Innovation and Creativity With Laughter”:

  1. Mukami wrote:

    I like this and I will apply it, esp with my son’s, I want to introduce them to personal care and responsibility. .. we start as a game and pap….