Could your jokes make you the next Tesla or Edison? Yes, humor awakes creativityeven in the sciences.
So, let’s joke around for some quantum leaps:
What if you could eat yourself? Gobble your gallbladder and 3D print new growth? No animal would again suffer the butcher. Yet, we’d have no need for pigs, cows, and clucks. Livestock would go extinct.
What if you had digitally animated tattoos? CPU brain chips that hack your moods and mental images? Yes, bikers would have ransacks looped on their pudgy pecs. Trudeau’s ankle would parade G20s hosted at his safe space, the Pooh Bear Daycare.
Humor helps us gain new ground. And groundbreaking solutions rarely build on common sense. You see, solutions are seldom linear. Instead, solutions carve paths of jagged swirls stretched to endpoints. Roberta Ness says “[N]ot every question has a single solution and the best path to a solution may be convoluted” (p. 132). So, crack jokes on your way to a breakthrough. Jokes help you dabble in the daring, break beliefs, and make mad science meaningful.
Star Trek spurred virtual worlds and 3D printers. Cartoons dared us to craft robots to scrub dishes and darn socks. Today, digital brains are budding. So, if Hollywood shook-up science, might jokes jolt science, too?
Ness says, “There is no better way to blast your mind out of the box than to consider a completely outrageous idea as though it were reasonable” (p. 135).
So, here’s my outrageous idea: I learned that mathematicians study the fifth dimension. In the fifth dimension, you see through “skin” and get eyefuls of innards. Now, consider this: near-death-experiencers claim they invisibly pop out of their bodies and enter an afterlife. Might the NDE afterlife be the fifth dimension? And what if infinite dimensions exist?
My point? What if, in the fifth-dimension, invisible cows make up McDonald’s Big Macs? Calorie free! Outrageous, yes. Reasonable? Give it twenty years.
Dr. Roberta Ness maps out how jokes shake paradigms in her book Innovation Generation: How to Produce Creative and Useful Scientific Ideas:
Jokes lead to innovation. Jokes coax you down the path of reason and swoop you up into the unexpected.
Get original by defying cliché mental images, says Edward de Bono in his book Lateral Thinking (as cited in Ness). [Fat is the new fit forms a present-day cliché. Try defying it without relying on old logic.]
Right and wrong changes over time, across cultures, across places. Nothing is fixed.
The following joke came from a headline in the The Onion campus paper: “Rich Guy Feeling Left Out of Recession” (as cited in Ness, p. 133). This joke is called a “counterfactual.” Jokes can blast beliefs or reverse clichés.
Slapstick humor gets people laughing. In other words, punching a person gets howls. Why? Laughing off abuse leaves us feeling less threatened. So, use humor to make painful loads lighter.
Take everyday objects and find novel uses for them. This will flex your creative fire.
Suggest something completely outrageous, and defend it. By doing so, you’ll exercise your creative gifts.
Never mind gobbling gallbladderswhat if men could grow milk-rich cow udders? The new milkman? I call it a creative spark!