Wise Fool Strategy # 3Laugh at It

“As soon as you have made a thought, laugh at it.”

— Lao Tzu, Chinese Philosopher

Humor is a favorite tool of Wise Fools. They believe that if you can laugh at something — be it a problem, the design of a work space, the plotline of a novel, or your relationship with another person — then you'll be more likely to think about it in a fresh way.

For example, one day a client of mine had a new product design team get into a really whacky mood, and so they decided to make fun of their product. They were zany, goofy, and off-the-wall. The meeting was a great success, and many new ideas were generated. The next week, everybody was in a more serious mood and no new ideas were generated. Moral: There's often a close relationship between the “aha” of discovery and the “ha-ha” of humor.

Indeed, the mental processes underlying humor — challenging assumptions, breaking set, putting ideas into unusual contexts, seeking ambiguity, combining different concepts, asking offbeat what-if questions, and making fun of the rules — are effective creative thinking techniques in their own right.

Why is this? First of all, humor puts you at ease. Do you feel more comfortable talking with someone who has just told you a joke or with someone who is deadly serious? Would you rather listen to a speaker who approaches her subject in a plodding manner or one who has just ...

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