Humour is a catalyst for creativity

Humour is a catalyst for creativity
Humour is a catalyst for creativity is Dr Vanessa Marcié latest article for Harvard Business Review France.
Image Copyright @ Alice Dietrich @Unsplash.

Innovation rarely thrives in overly serious environments.

Humour is a catalyst for creativity. Today, in organisations, we are increasingly required to promote innovation and solve problems creatively. But to express their creativity, employees must have the freedom and psychological security necessary to share their ideas. An environment of relaxation and entertainment where employees and employers demonstrate a sense of humour encourages creativity. Read more on Hbrfrance.f

Humor can change our way of thinking

Humour is indeed considered as a creative act because creativity, like humour, arouses surprise by breaking certain frames. Both involve establishing non-obvious links between incongruous elements. And what is a joke, if it is not a combination of different and/or contrasting ideas that creates a discrepancy, disobeying conventional expectations. Theorists suggest that humour drives cognitive processes that are conducive to creative thinking.

Humour brings awareness of the incongruity between two elements. And the ability to switch from one element to another is a cognitive process identified as enhancing creativity. In other words, humour changes the way we think and facilitates an unexpected way of thinking, like the one that prompted Einstein imagining himself overlapping a team of light. By developing our sense of humour, we develop a new ability to understand problems from different angles, and this type of thinking leads to greater creativity.

Tackling problems in a linear and traditional way provides conventional, if not trivial, solutions. However, as Albert Einstein suggested: “In order to stimulate creativity, one must develop a childish inclination for play.”
Humour is a powerful asset for ideation and creativity, as it facilitates reflection and the free association of ideas.
Research by Karuna Subramaniam shows that “eureka” occurs much more often in those who work in a fun and light atmosphere. After all, there is only an “h” difference between “aha” and “haha”. And that’s good because humour is a creative process that allows us to form new relationships, explore new ideas, and make connections between existing and emerging concepts. Karuna Subramaniam found, using functional MRI, that stimulating humour increased activity in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) of the brain: during the experiment, participants who had watched a comedy before doing a puzzle of matching words performed better than those who had watched a horror movie. In fact, another study found that many games used in improv comedy strongly encouraged associative thinking and that this increased idea production by an average of 37% in a brainstorming session. Proof that humour is a real fuel for creative thinking.

Humor to solve complex problems

In business, research shows that humorous leaders inspire their employees, encouraging them to find creative and innovative solutions to complex problems. Indeed, in their work environment, individuals are often reluctant to express creative ideas that can be rejected or even mocked. But several studies show that those who work in an environment where humour has its place are more creative. Indeed, humour helps build and maintain positive and psychologically safe work environments. Humour, therefore, facilitates the creation of ideas, but can also temper criticism and limit resistance to new ideas.

If you’re not yet convinced that you can work hard without taking yourself seriously, Southwest Airlines’ operating margin in 2018 was the highest in the world among major airlines. An exemplary success largely due to the place of humour in its corporate culture. First, Herb Kelleher, the late co-founder, CEO and Chairman Emeritus of Southwest Airlines, was known in the airline industry as the grandmaster of jokes. There is no doubt that he has infused his sense of humour into the entire organization. The airline has indeed made humour one of its key corporate values. On its website, we read that living “the Southwest way” means adopting a “fun” attitude and not taking yourself too seriously. The company says it promotes and nurtures a “fun and healthy” work environment. The company even tests the sense of humour of candidates who want to join it, with questions like “How did you use humour to get out of an embarrassing situation?” “.

Do you lead a team? Do you want to improve your leadership skills? Learn how to use Humour in Leadership. We offer a curriculum of virtual classes (new dates added regularly) and 1-1 coaching programmes to help leaders to master a leadership tool for the 21st century: humour. Our curriculum is designed to provide deep self-awareness, awareness of others and a mindset shift on work and life.
Do you want to bring Leading With Humour at your workplace? Find out how.