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The ABCs of Creativity: Humor

Bertha in the Elephant Bathing Pool

Edward de Bono says that humor involves the same kind of thought process that creativity does. You’re going along one direction and suddenly the punchline moves you in another direction. The same is true of creativity. People think the thought process is in one direction when someone takes it in another. The move to a creative solution looks like a leap to people outside the process.

Humor improves the business environment by taking down a person’s self-monitoring process. People build up walls to protect themselves and their jobs. These walls are made of monitoring and judging what they do and say. Humor takes down those walls and allows people to be more themselves. When inhibitions and self-monitoring are reduced, creativity can flow.

When Marc Davis joined the Disneyland designed team, he worked on the Jungle Cruise. When the attraction opened in 1955, it was a straight attraction. The skippers would take people through the displays as if they were real. Davis added humorous scenes to the attraction and to the spiel. Davis’ humor is what makes the Jungle Cruise a continually popular, classic attraction. Without Davis’ creativity, the Jungle Cruise may have gone the way of other defunct Disneyland attractions.

The more humor you engage in, the more creative you become. Just be sure that the humor gets others to laugh with you and not at them. Joining an improv group can help guide you to greater humor and creative heights.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Tips for Becoming More Creative” and “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories: Becoming More Creative for a Better Life and World.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.

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Is Brainstorming a Good Thing?

woman looking at sticky notes

In “How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery,” Kevin Ashton questions the validity of brainstorming for creativity. His main objection stems from the fact that brainstorming doesn’t have a way to turn ideas into reality. For Ashton, having ideas is not being creative; the ideas must be realized in order for creativity to result.

Ashton is not the only creativity author to poke this particular hole in brainstorming. Edward de Bono also believes that brainstorming is inefficient and a bad way to come up with ideas. Having more ideas doesn’t mean having better ideas, and businesses need better ideas.

Another failure of brainstorming is the exclusion of people who are shy. Even with instructions involving no judgement and participating, those who are afraid of failure, making mistakes, public speaking, or being laughed at, may hold their ideas back. Instead, Ashton says the research suggests that people working alone come up with as many ideas as people working together, and the ideas will be better. Groups tend to fixate on one idea as the brainstorming goes on.

Brainstorming was originally used in advertising to come up with ideas. What makes it work is how you use it and what you do when done. Brainstorming sessions have their place in creativity, but it needs someone to guide the ideas from the whiteboard to reality. If you’re using it in a business, the person implementing must have the power to do so.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Tips for Becoming More Creative.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories: Improving Creativity for a Better Life and World.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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The ABCs of Creativity: Brainstorming

Creativity comes when people aren’t afraid to make connections or sound dumb. People don’t like to be judged or have their ideas called stupid, even if they sound out there. Brainstorming sessions attempt to put people in a safe place where there is no judgement and they can dream as big as they want to. As an idea generation practice, Brainstorming can provide hundreds to thousands of ideas, depending on how many people participate and how long the session is.

Brainstorming sessions should have between 8 and 12 people. The session should last about 45 minutes to an hour though longer sessions can be advantageous if there are appropriate breaks. All brainstorming sessions have rules. At Disney in their blue-sky sessions, imagineers follow these rules according to “The Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland”:

  1. There is no such thing as a bad idea.
  2. No talking about why it can’t be done.
  3. Do not stifle ideas with “buts,” “can’ts” and other negative words.
  4. There’s no such thing as a bad idea.

Not everyone agrees that brainstorming is a good idea. Edward de Bono says it’s a waste because so many ideas are discarded and the time to come up with them is wasted thereby. The process is inefficient. However, creativity is inefficient, so the brainstorming session, when the plan begins, should be the most inefficient part of the process.

De Bono also notices that some people try to top others, so the session results in people coming up with the most outlandish ideas. For me, that’s part of the point of brainstorming. Like Disney imagineers, I believe you never know where the best idea is going to come from, and it could come from a connection to an outrageous idea that someone else had.

Others decry the fact that brainstorming sessions have no follow up step. That’s up to the business to create. Recording the ideas and having the team follow up is easier if someone has the authority, time and resources to move forward with new ideas.

If you want to have a lot of ideas to choose from, start with a brainstorming session.

For more ABCs of Creativity, check these links. Grab a copy of “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Tips for Becoming More Creative.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories: Creating for a Better Life and World.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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Edward de Bono at the University of Malta 2015

On Feb. 9, 2015, Edward de Bono, one of the world’s leading thinkers in creativity, gave a talk at the University of Malta’s Institute for Creativity and Innovation named for him. During the session, he covered his ideas on lateral thinking, argument and why the world needs new thinking habits.

“The most significant behavior of the human brain is humor,” says de Bono. Humor indicates a patterning system. “Patterning systems are very important.”

De Bono had the group exploring the Random Word, Provocative Operation (PO) and Blocked by Openness techniques during his talk. Each technique introduces something into the situation that seems ridiculous or unrelated. The Random Word is just what it sounds like. As people are discussing the solution to a problem, a word is chosen at random and related to the problem at hand. The point is to find a word that will spark a change in thinking.

The PO allows the participant to say something that doesn’t make sense by itself. The group is then supposed to move forward from that idea. There is no judging of the idea, just moving forward from it. The example that de Bono gave was a question that came up when discussing a factory’s waste contaminating downstream. “What if the factory was downstream of itself?” While this seems a bit ridiculous, what it did was inspire legislation in several countries that required factories to dump their waste upstream of the factory. Factories then had incentive to keep the river clean.

The idea behind being Blocked by Openness de Bono explained by describing the main roads as free of traffic. Going down the main road because it is so open would limit anyone from taking the side roads. In essence the side roads would be blocked by the openness of the main road. Oftentimes, our brains use a concept to make things easier. In Blocked by Openness, it is important to find out what that concept is and then challenge the brain not to use that concept.

“The key thing is movement,” says de Bono, “movement as distinct from judgment.”

While judgment says an idea is wrong, lateral thinking moves forward from the wrong idea rather than criticizing it. For 2,400 years, people have been using argument as the key discourse tool. The problem is that argument consists of proving people wrong and holding onto and protecting a concept. It uses destruction as its essential tool, and it lacks creativity. Argument is not an effective way of exploring a topic.

De Bono created the 6 thinking hats as a different way to approach a problem. Everyone wears the same hat at the same time, and then examines it from that hat’s perspective. Someone who is critical of the idea but wearing the yellow hat would still need to see what is good about the idea. De Bono says that the process actually saves time.

De Bono says that the fear of mistakes and lack of incentive to try out new ideas are the greatest inhibitors to the adoption of creative ideas.

“We’re all brought up to avoid mistakes at all costs,” says de Bono. Trying even one new idea a year in business would help.

Too much of what people do when it comes to thinking is using normal processes without trying to go beyond those processes.

“Caveman thinking consists of recognizing a standard situation and then providing a standard answer,” says de Bono. “Most of our thinking is that.”

De Bono is working on his 85th book about “Bonting,” which focuses on thinking that creates value.