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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Innovation and Humour

The question on LinkedIn that I asked was

Innovators need humour - is there a strong correlation?

How much is humour relevant to inventors, innovators and creativity? It is becoming clear that ability to create humour is the extremely difficult part and in fact a very creative act of human mind. Is it essential for Innovation....?

Amazing answers from amazing people below (Thank You All)

Good Answers (2)

Anshuman Singh
IT Consultant managing IT Delivery and Experience Design

Humour is the essentially ability to see/show an alternate perspective to a situation at hand OR to improvise in a situation (Tom & Jerry?). My favuorite example is an old comic strip by Glasbergen: The Technical Support on phone is suggesting - when everything fails, try falling in love - it makes you feel better. So while you may not need to be humourous to be an innovator - chances are that if you are creative/innovator you would be humourous. It should not be confused with making others laugh, which would be 'stand-up comedy' and almost a performing art. Edward de Bono says, Humour is by far the most significant behaviour of the human mind. You may find this surprising. If humour is so significant, why has it been so neglected by traditional philosophers, psychologists and information scientists? Humour tells us more about how the brain works as mind, than does any other behaviour of the mind - including reason. It indicates that our traditional thinking methods, and our thinking about these methods, have been based on the wrong model of information system. It tells us something about perception which we have traditionally neglected in favour of logic. It tells us directly about the possibility of changes in perception. It shows us that these changes can be followed by instant changes in emotion - something that can never be achieved by logic. <>

Costas Papaikonomou
Insight-Led Innovation

Hi Navneet, Humour is extremely powerful in any creative process, as it disturbs implicit assumptions and thus opens views to new approaches. Is the glass half full or half empty? Neither, it's just twice the size it should be.

Jason Schutte
Director of Promotions at WCCX

I wouldn't say that humor is essential for innovation, but rather a byproduct of the creative mind. The ability to see humor in a given situation is not something everyone is born with. I think the correlation is one of necessity, people who feel the drive to innovate and move forward need humor as a release from stress and pressure. Many creative people tend to develop a feeling of being "boxed in" and I think humor is a way of dealing with that uncomfortable feeling.
Tom Field
Editorial Director at

Well, humor generally is a sign of intelligence, and I'd argue that intelligence plays a strong role in innovation. best, Tom

Soledad Quiroz
Graduate Student at Michigan State University

Like Jason I would correlate humor with creativity, the ability to look at something from a very different point of view, which is essential for innovation. Soledad

Hari Panicker
Banking Consultant at Emirates Bank

Humour is not much relevant for the reference class. However, if they have the flavour, can produce outstanding humour. When one is working on a serious innovation she/he may not even sense humour.

Chandra Garre
Sr Software Design Engineer at Expedia Inc

One thing is sure, when there is too much of innovation, it would lead to the person snapping off at some point or the other, then you will find a lot of unnecessary sense of humor. Humor (to some extent) usually indicates a good state of mind as long as the subject is a sane person. When a person is happy, it indicates that the person is happy doing the current work which means that since the person is happy there is a high potential of innovation. too much of innovation is bad, too much of humor is also bad.

Amit Mittal
DGM - BPO Marketing at IBM Business Process Outsourcing WW

It is a mild excuse for sarcasm as well and is used to communicate disagreement with the expressed point of view. Just something to assuage the feelings of the audience and many times the inventor himself as he tries to purge his disappointments while tracing the collective wisdom aligning to the new idea. I believe, entirely optional as most people end up using it in bad forms and end up with avoidable conclusions. only exceptional maturity can actually understand most good points of expressed humor.
Clarification added 3 months ago:
It is a mild excuse for sarcasm as well and is used to communicate disagreement with the expressed point of view. Humor is just something to assuage the feelings of the audience and many times the inventor himself. The inventor tries to purge his disappointments while tracing the collective wisdom aligning to the new idea. I believe, humor is entirely optional as most people end up using it in bad forms because of the sarcasm inside and end up with avoidable conclusions with the audience. Only exceptional maturity can actually understand most good points of expressed humor. Good humorat the right time therefore outlines the maturity of the group and somehow underlines the greatness of the idea.

Cheri Baker
Organizational Development Consultant

Humor and Innovation have a big thing in common. Both rely on the ability to connect two or more formerly unconnected things with a result that pleases. That being said, there are humorists who are not creative, and creative types that aren't very funny. So I wouldn't say it is essential. That being said, anyone who is innovative is likely to encounter a lot of rejection in life and a lot of failure. A good sense of humor is likely to keep them going when things get tough!

Dimitri Flores
IT Planning and Innovation Manager

Humor provokes laugh. Laugh gets more oxygen to the brain. Then the person thinks better and gets the innovation done. :)

Are Managers Anti-Innovation?

Three months back I asked the following question at LinkedIn -

Managers are anti-innovation?

Does the increasing number of choices, especially in a scenario where number of ideas are generated in the ideation or creative solution to specific problems, make the decision maker which typically is a Manager, insecure? This is so, as the manager has been given more options to choose from and more options for analysis, and as we know from our experience, increasing number of alternatives make the task of choosing one alternative exceedingly difficult. If yes, in effect Managers do not want Innovation actually...? Would like to have your thoughts comments or inputs

Answers below from different people - Fantastic

Good Answers (2)

Andrew Meyer
Owner, Capability Alignment Professionals

Let me put a slightly different twist on the question. As Warren Buffett has long said, "It is far better for one's reputation to fail conventionally than to succeed unconventionally." There is a lot of truth to this. No one was ever fired for buying IBM and (to continue stealing from Warren Buffett) while lemmings as a whole may have a bad reputation, no individual lemming has ever been singled out and uncriticized. While many people may claim that "leaders innovate" or don't fear innovation, that doesn't really make sense. Companies and the individuals in them, succeed because they understand the way the company operates and they operate that way successfully. If you make incremental improvements to that process, that is a conventional innovation. Managers are not likely to resist it. As Niccolo Machiavelli said 500 year ago: "There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order to things." That is still true today. People who benefit under the current way things are done, will fight tooth and nail to prevent the change from taking occurring. People who will benefit under the new system, will not know how they will really benefit, so their support will be, at best, lukewarm. Innovation is risky for managers for good reasons.
Messages from Andrew Meyer (1):

Peter Wilbur
Site Manager at Perot Systems/NAH and Owner, Wilbur Enterprises

Managers, like many other folks, do not like change. Leaders bring change. If you are only a manager, you do not want something to change. This just means you have more to manage. This is why the manager is insecure or indecisive -- trending on unfamiliar territory and no guidance is available. A leader, on the other hand, will introduce change and look for ways to get outside the box and improve the process. Leaders prefer innovation. They do not fear it, but instead demand it.
Messages from Peter Wilbur (1):

Jason Schutte
Director of Promotions at WCCX

Navneet, I don't believe this is the case. I think it depends on the person in the position to make the decision and the quality of people researching the various solutions available. Any manager is only going to be as effective as the people who work for them, it's a manager's job to clearly define what they are looking for and choose based on organizational need. Innovation is a funny thing. I would say that conservative is much more along the line of what you are talking about. Most managers are very unlikely to rock the boat with a solution that is revolutionary, because they do not want to be the person who attempts a radical approach which fails. If you are looking for innovators you need to go higher on the totem pole to people who are paid to be innovators. Managers are simply managers, and typically will work with known and trusted quantities, because that is the basis of their job and job security.
Messages from Jason Schutte (1):

Tom Field
Editorial Director at

Well, some managers are groomed to conduct "safe" business, and innovation isn't always safe. This may be the big disconnect. It isn't that managers are anti-innovation; it's that they're anti-risk. best, Tom
Messages from Tom Field (1):

Hari Panicker
Banking Consultant at Emirates Bank

Encouraging innovation is something a Manager can not do away with ! If a person does not understand this ...... well need to check his job description before passing a comment.
Messages from Hari Panicker (1):

Varun Verma
Lead Software Development Engineer at Citrix Systems

I don't think one can make such a blanket statement that managers are anti-innovation. If a manager takes the approach that he is going to stifle innovation so that he has less options to choose from, well, then God save his team and his organization. I would argue that managers should in fact encourage innovation so that they have some new and different options as well when considering solutions to a problem. Choosing which option to go with should also be based on a risk/rewards ratio among other things.
Messages from Varun Verma (1):

Piyush Bhatnagar
Technology Management Executive, CISSP, PMP

Navneet, I dont think this is a YES or NO answer and as usual there are a lots of shades of Gray. The role of the manager is to get the work done while maximizing the productivity, meeting delivery deadlines and minimizing the risks. Most managers have to walk a tight rope and the risk and impact of falling can be disastrous for the organization. Although there is always a scope of innovation in each project. the degree of innovation in any project is also quite varied. Each situation is different and needs to be seen in the right context. The amount of innovation needed in a R&D organization is usually very high, while in an organization, delivering a specific solution, to meet specific specification , the scope to innovate will be less comparitively. Similarly, in R&D organizations you will find more managers that encourage innovation is higher as compared the other places. In addition, you also have to look the cost of innovating and depending on the organization/project may decide that the rewards are not worth the risk. So it will be unfair to say that managers are anti-innovation. They are just getting the tasks done and the amount of risk-aversiveness is dependenent on the amount of innovation necessary to get the work done.
Messages from Piyush Bhatnagar (1):
{By the way Piyush is my M.Sc ClassMate and we worked in the same lab in India as our first job - Many years ago :)}

Wolfgang Brait
VP, Head Latin America, Novartis Oncology

Navneet, the only thing that keeps your business successful in the long term is permanent improvement. This is simply founded in the fact that any successful business by its pure existence will attract competition. Competition will - what else - compete by trying to make something better than the current owner of the business does. And this means they will innovate. Consequently, there is a need to permanently innovate to be able to improve the current quality, reach, efficacy and whatever else is important in your specific business. A manager that is an obstacle to innovation is an obstacle to the survival of the company. The art though is to decide which of the 'new things' add value to the business and which dont. And that's where you will have the conflicts arising in a productive environment. If however the controversy is about what adds more value, than you have a constructive exchange and competition of ideas which in itself drives innovation again.
Messages from Wolfgang Brait (1):
RE: Managers are anti-innovation?

John Sharkey
Interim Manager / Management Consultant / Contact Centre Expert / Change Manager

In my view the culture and organisational drivers are more important than the manager. But, the most important factor is the culture driven by the board or VP. For example if the culture is one that rigidly adheres to a quality accreditation then innovation will take longer as it has to be proven better than the accredited processes. However, if the culture is one of fast change and a champion challenger approach is the norm then the manager is likely to be more receptive to innovation. Also if the VP / Board recognises that innovation may occasionally not produce perfect results but they also recognise the intention and innovation then more will be attempted. Conversely if every variation is critically assessed, reviewed and peer groups assessed against the absolute results over a short period, then what incentive does the manager have to innovate. The biggest influences are culture and the measurements used within the organisation. Talented managers who want to further their careers will deliver the results that are tangibly rewarded and valued.
Messages from John Sharkey (1):

Stuart Ali
Scientist, Manager, Entrepreneur

Interesting question. Couple of thoughts. One could ask whether there are any managers that truly are anti-innovation; perhaps the manifestation is related to risk aversion - especially when confronted with options, ideas and people. Second, I think it is important to consider the origins of innovation. Is it really about good ideas and evaluation/execution of options. Or is it more deep seated in organisational culture? What drives innovation in the first place? How is it directed to add value? How is change perceived? What processes share the employee and notions of sustainable competitive advantage? Therefore, one could question wether it is insecurity of individual managers that stifle innovation, or whether the issue is more deep-seated.
Messages from Stuart Ali (1):

El Nino Invest

its always interesting to discuss wide terms and concepts. What if there is a manager for bringing innovation? I assume along the organization´s chain of command the manager with least height will cover the basics. they are probably very creative in their daily work but usually the terms and condition for their work is over viewed by even more creative individuals. The problem managers get into is usually that they get really good at executing and start to like doing the same old thing, hence hate changes and never stop checking out the rest of the world. Also with a narrow measurement system managers can get blinded which means that the performance mgmt systems can dictate the level of innovation allowed.
Messages from A R (1):

Sahil G
Sterling Supply Chain Consultant at Infosys Technologies Limited
Navneet, What a specific manager does, I think, is a specific case. But in general, I don't think that managers should or would avoid innovation. By suppressing innovation in his team, a manager will never be able to find an idea which can result in better and quicker solutions. The responsibility of a manager is to facilitate the execution of the project in the best interest of the company that he is working for. He should and must (depending on availability of time ofcourse) take inputs and suggestions from all the team members and then weigh their pros and cons and eventually chose 1 or more options. Yes, it can be a daunting task sometimes, but thats part of the job. The benefits of innovations definitely outweigh the effort required for analyzing various options / innovations. You being a consultant, I am sure, don't want managers to run away from innovative ideas :)
Messages from Sahil G (1):


Many thanks to all respondents - Just posting on the blog to keep the questions alive - and discussion Ongoing - it is important to keep the questions alive I think :)

Lean Product Development

Incidently this is my 150th post to the Blog - last 100 posts have happened so fast that I myself am amazed - I went by the Lean principle of on an average 1 post a day - May be I am keeping my sanity intact through blogging

On Linkedin (, I asked the following question:

Has anyone explored Lean (Toyota) Product Development methodologies, especially the so called Set-Based concurrent engineering (SBCE). Kindly share your expriences if you have?

The answers that I received I am just reproducing as is - for public at large

I implemented Lean Product Development (including SBCE) for one of HP's major businesses. I now help other companies use Lean PD to shorten time to market, lower product cost and increase R & D productivity. I just wrote an article for the Product Development Management Association that surveys the landscape of differing approaches to lean product development, and I will co-chair a conference for the Lean Enterprise Institute in 2008 that will be devoted to the topic. I have linked to the article and to my own website. Feel free to browse the resources there, including a reading list of books and articles, a number of knowledge briefs that I have written, and my blog, Product Development Field Notes. I've blogged several times about SBCE specifically.
Messages from Katherine Radeka (1):
When working at Lithonia Lighting, I spearheaded an effort to implement Lean Product Development, but found the existing methodologies to be too feature/benefit and cost driven for what we wanted to accomplish. We built a ground-up system called Lean PDS based loosely on our previous tollgate driven system, and infused with principles of Kaizen, rapid data gathering, customer involvement, and structured brainstorming. The resulting process was a significant improvement over the previous system, but as in all things Lean, it was just the first step towards perfection. Contact me privately if you would like to have the contact information of someone at Lithonia who might be able to offer you more detail or up-to-date information.

Messages from Paul Pickard (2):


Bruce Orcutt suggests this expert on this topic:
Lee Shaeffer
I participated in a Product Development and Management Association (PDMA) event with a speaker named Lee Shaeffer. Lee is an expert in Lean and could be a good resource for information and feedback. He is LinkedIn. Good luck.
Messages from Bruce Orcutt (1):

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