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Laughing all the way to a great team

Updated: May 4, 2020

I was working with a team this week and we ended up talking about humour and why it's a powerful ingredient for teams.

Years ago I joined the International Society for Humor Studies and read its journal: Humor. (They used the American spelling.) I also run workshops on humour at work.

Humor dissected humour in glorious academic detail. Articles included such titles as:

Identity construction via humor

Irony aptness

Joking cultures and social regulation

All very esoteric. But humour is powerful for teams. Why? Four basic reasons.

1. Everyone sees the same perspective

When a team can laugh at and/or find the same situation humorous, they've seen the same perspective. Everyone's on the same page.

2. We repeat funny stories and situations we find amusing over and over again and relive the same emotions

This is why comedians and sitcoms use catch phrases: audiences receive their trigger to laugh and they do time and time again as the same story or catch phrase is repeated.

3. De Bono describes humour as the most significant dimension of the human brain

Why? Humour uses an asymmetric patterning system. A classic joke takes us down one path: Most road accidents take place in the immediate vicinity of where people live. So how do you stop people having so many road accidents? Ask them to move. It's the punchline that's asymmetrical (and of course illogical).

And teams needs that creative thinking to make sure they don't get stale and just follow the same old patterns. More asymmetry please!

4. Humour helps build a team's identity

Teams find common ground using humour to target external people and organisations. This type of humour makes team members feel they're part of a subversive in-group. Also, humour aimed at team members (while they're present) says to team members it's psychologically safe to playfully attack each other. Both help build team identity.

Does your team need a boost? Try adding a dose or two of humour..


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