These days, the surest way to get a few laughs at the office, is to make a request for some ‘out of the box’ thinking. Sadly the mirth quickly dies out, just shortly after the plea for creativity is made. The tonality of the subsequent brainstorm is rather somber, much like someone reading a eulogy. Or presenting oneself at a performance appraisal, which in most cases is the same thing. And that is a bit disappointing, in fact rather wasteful; because laughter is certainly the best lubricant, when it comes to the pursuit of ideas.
There is something quite intriguing, about the very process of tickling the funny bone. It forces the mind to make connections that are offbeat and unexpected. It inspires a move away from the sequential, ‘connect the dots’ functioning of our brains. It’s often an exhortation to look at the brighter side, in the darkest moments. Humor is frequently a move away from genetic preprogramming, and into the realm of memetic possibility. But while laughter is a spontaneous crescendo, is there a way to initiate ‘foundational chuckles’ that lead to innovative sparks?
Playing it forward
Indulging in flights of fantasy is central to the creative process; as long as you are pondering about the problem at hand. The simple operation of using words like ‘imagine’, ‘suppose’
and ‘what if’, is sure to not just uncover a smile, but also open the window of opportunity, for an idea to creep through.
An innocent statement made in jest like ‘Imagine a defender scoring’, would have been certain to raise a few derisive laughs in a footballing locker room, in the distant past. But playing the idea forward, unearthed the wonderful concept of ‘total football’. This was a strategy that not just revolutionized the game, but also introduced a new paradigm, in the structuring of teams, across domains.
Seeing it like someone else
Creativity is eventually a matter of unique perspective. It is human nature to secretly nurse the desire, of being in someone else’s shoes; this is the time to fructify that wish. History offers one, a rich plethora of distinctive personalities to choose from, and introduce in conjunction with the problem.
For example, discussing what Genghis Khan would bring to the table, in terms of designing a modern day coffee shop, is not just guaranteed to lighten the mood, but also-if one is receptive enough, throw up some very interesting ideas.
The quest for the perfect match is perhaps best left, to marriage bureaus and clichéd film plots. In the pursuit of innovation, it is mismatches that are far more potent, when it comes to triggering exciting ideas.
Juxtaposition-introduced into the collective consciousness, by the Big B in Amar Akbar Anthony, is probably a useful concept to examine at such times. The case of mobile phones, combining a previously staunchly aloof category like phones, with just about anything, from cameras to conspiracy theories, has resulted in an industry that is abuzz and innovating, all the time.
Even in reel life, it is the prospect of two hopelessly different people; inadvertently trying to get together, that sets the premise for most romantic comedies.
Finding the worst solution
Too much time and effort is spent, on trying to isolate the best possible answer. This is perhaps a viable strategy, if one is taking a multiple choice entrance exam; but in the grey zone of creative thinking, such endeavors often come up a cropper. It is said there is a fine line between insanity and genius. Using a lateral approach, finding the worst answer-an effort well within everyone’s skill set, can often lead to uncovering the best solution.
One ‘bad resolution’ for handling a screaming adversary, is to simply let him go on. The thinking being, once the emotion has been drained out of a situation, there is scope for consensus and agreement to emerge.
Finally the legendary author, Arthur C Clarke once mused, “The words preceding any significant discovery are not ‘Eureka’ but, ‘Hey that’s funny’.” Humor often casts a spell on the most stubborn problem. It is time we learnt to laugh a lot more.