#071 DFQ

Q. How many Surrealists does it take to change a light bulb?

A. A butterfly!


Humour involves the appreciation of oddness. In humour there is the willingness to enjoy seeing the OTHER SIDE of things, the willingness to see fresh points of view, to see them and appreciate them without necessarily feeling the need to adopt them as one’s own.

Oscar Wilde suggested: “Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live; it is asking others to live as one wishes to live. Selfishness always aims at uniformity of type. Unselfishness recognises infinite variety of type as a delightful thing, accepts it, acquiesces in it, enjoys it”.

Stars and Conformists

Humour (with u or without u) includes flexibility in the way we can look at information, the humour of creativity, and the humour of insight. Humour means seeing things in a different way. Appreciating the value of differences. Not just trying to make everything conform, not trying to force star-shaped pegs into square holes.

To do this we have to cut of the star bits and often, by doing this, we lose the biggest added-value that the star shape has to offer. While conforming has its value, starring has its added-value. You’ll remember we discussed a few days ago that the ‘habit of adding value’ is what Quality is all about.

Humour is Clever

Humour also embraces exploration and experiment and the willingness to create “mistakes” and to be surprised. It also encompasses the ability to enjoy oneself, as well as humility. Humour allows freedom from arrogance, self-righteousness, hypocrisy, and false morality.

Humour is also freedom from self-bullying and the bullying of others. There’s the humour of wisdom, the humour of balance and tolerance, the humour of plurality. The enjoyment of surprise, chance and variety. The good mood, the sound of laughter, good humour and good health.

Surprise is Human

Humour involves the appreciation of surprise. That’s why it’s said that God mustn’t have a sense of humour. The argument goes that if we define a God as omniscient (knows everything) then that God cannot be surprised. So, He/She cannot have a sense of humour. Whether or not this is true, God knows! What is true is that we’re not gods, we’re not know-it-alls. We are humans and we are most human when we are surprised.

For this reason, one of my TV favourite’s has always been those vignettes from Candid Camera. I’ve never failed to laugh heartily and never failed to shed a tear at the wonderful mix of cleverness, vulnerability, surprise and laughter.

Humour is Serious

In 1918, George Meredith, literary critic, wrote in An Essay on Comedy that the “Comic Spirit” is like a social guardian angel to help us whenever men “wax out of proportion, overblown, affected, pretentious, bombastical, hypocritical, pedantic; whenever it sees them self-deceived or hood-winked, given to run riot, planning shortsightedly, plotting dementedly.”

DH Munro in his Argument of Laughter (1951) says that delight in what is new and fresh and a desire to escape from boredom and monotony are important aspects of what is meant by a sense of humour.

Arthur Koestler in The Act of Creation (1964) compares the creative insights of humour to be similar to the insights of poetry and science. The logical pattern of the creative process is the same in all three cases, says Koestler and that laughter is what follows when two incompatible or incongruous frames of reference are joined.

For example:
He was an old lion-killer. The trouble was there were no more old lions left to kill, so he started killing young lions with a club. The trouble was there were fifty of them in the club.


Father Cannibal: Sorry I’m late, have I missed dinner?
Mother Cannibal: Yes, everybody’s eaten.


A prisoner is playing cards with his guards. On discovering that he’s been cheating they kick him out of jail.

Cognitive scientists like Piaget and Chomsky pay a lot of attention to the subject of humour and their findings are contributing both to our understanding of human language and human behaviour. As humour is so uniquely a human phenomenon, the more we understand about it the more we understand things like CONTRADICTIONS and PARADOXES and human thinking in general.

This is a famous paradox:

Recently, interest in humour is developing among mathematicians who see connections between pure mathematics and catastrophe theory and the patterns of humour. An account of this is presented in John Allen Paulos’ Mathematics and Humour (1980).

And also, in physics and science, the similarities between the structure of humour and the structure of scientific breakthroughs has also been observed (Thomas Kuhn in Structure of Scientific Revolutions 1970).

The Humour of Change

Sometimes things change. They say the only thing that doesn’t change is change itself. Change can be sudden and cataclysmic like the Kobe earthquake or slow and unnoticeable like a friend’s weight loss program. But change is change and sometimes things may never be the same again.

That was then … this is now!

When I think of change in this way I’m often reminded of the TWTTIN phrase – That Was Then … This Is Now! – and of the humour that often accompanies this kind of change in circumstances.

The Scientist’s Dogs

About twenty years ago in Pasadena, California, Edward de Bono and I were having lunch with a couple of scientists. One was Paul MacCready, who invented the Gossamer Albatross which won the prize for man-powered flight across the English Channel. The other was Murray Gell-Mann who won a Nobel Prize for his discovery of the quark.

We came to discuss the role that creativity plays in scientific discovery. This led to a discussion about sudden insights like the Aha! phenomenon and then, inevitably, to the subject of humour. Murray Gell-Mann began to laugh and then he told us his dog story …

At that time, Murray explained that he had two Doberman dogs and a fruit-laden avocado pear tree.

One of the dobermans liked to eat the avocados when they fell from the tree, the other doberman didn’t care for the avocados at all. Murray’s problem was to stop the first dog from eating his avocados. He tried a number of things but to no avail. But being the scientist that he is, he didn’t give up. Then he had an idea … Aha!

Murray sprinkled cayenne pepper on an avocado to see if the dog would still eat it, the dog wouldn’t touch it. So, triumphantly, he then sprinkled cayenne pepper on all the avocados that had fallen on the ground to teach the dog a lesson that avocados are for humans who are smarter than dogs, anyway.

The change in circumstances worked, more or less. The avocado-eating dog never ate another avocado, however, the other dog now began to eat all the avocados. He liked them now that they were laced with cayenne pepper! … TWTTIN.

Productivity is Fun

But, how is all this helpful to you, as a clever necktop user, in a practical way, today?

Productivity! Whether you’re in the factory, at school, at home, in sport, in the laboratory or on the stock market the structure of humour is identical to the structure of quantum leaps, paradigm shifts, changes of mind, CVS TO BVS, innovation, risk-taking with their subsequent rise in productivity.

Above all, the Clever Company must have a sense of humour. It must have a culture that encourages surprise, experimentation, learning and the continual search for a BVS. This is what is meant by QRH, the balance between the virtues of Quality, Recognition and Humour.

If a company cannot learn to escape from its own experience then it’s stuck with it. There’s either moving ahead or falling behind. Moving ahead with leaps of productivity is fun to do. Falling behind, failing and laying-off people is no fun at all.

QRH Style

How would one describe the style of a clever brainuser? … QRH.
How would one describe the environment of a clever family? … QRH.
How would one describe the culture of a clever company? … QRH.
How would one describe the policies of a clever country? … QRH.

QRH Styleware is another mind tool, if it becomes a habit of thinking,
that will help you develop your necktop to its fuller potential.

Oh! and by the way, PTV can’t cope with QRH.




DFQ #071:

Give a recent example of how you have used humour to escape from your point-of-view.

238 thoughts on “#071 DFQ

  1. I sometimes become fixated with a situation and over emphasise the importance of it. The use of humour can restore perspective. humour is laso a good way of connecting with other people

  2. used to work for someone who put a remote controlled fart box under the podium so that if other speakers at a conference reached saturation point on boredom levels the box would come into action at very audible levels. cheeky? tedious too in the long run but in the short run enough to jolt those present into a different mode: which was the intended objective. to go behind the scenes one would have to appreciate the method and technical disipline plus sense of flexebility and timing that were invested into producing humour in his own talks. however one can study and produce humour and not necessarily be a naturally humourous person, however hard one tries. i have discovered that there are different styles and that there’s a bit of fine tuning to the sharpening of one’s wit. concept extraction works a treat.

  3. Humour to escape my own point of view, used by me, is difficult to pin-point, but used mostly on others or by others on me can be very useful.

  4. I wrote spiritual quote on my facebook status and a man criticized me that it is opposite of Sharia. He was not listening to my reasoning and I understood reasoning is pointless here. So I criticized him that why you don’t have a beard (according to sharia men should have a beard). Then he kept quiet.

  5. My wife had handed me the responsibility of making sure our younger son completed his studies. My PTV was that he did not seem to realize the importance of studies and I was in a mood to scold him. However I changed it into a joke about how he could always fool me by faking and I could not challenge him. Had a good laugh and my son settled down to complete his studies.

  6. Humour helps me have pisitive and sunny days, even in cold winter:). It helps me get familiar and closer to people. it helps me smile and life great life! Humour does not allow to PTV to dominate in my everyday life.

  7. I usually do this as a bit of a tease. Recently standing at a check out counter at the supermarket, I did an experiment to determine to determine how serious the person in front of me was. When the person was not looking, I started taking some of the items of that person which had not yet been paid for into my basket to determine what the reaction would be when this was noticed. By the look of the person I thought that the reaction would be a serious one. To my surprise, the person regarded it as a bit of a joke. The moral was that you cannot judge a person by your perception.

  8. I thought about the Hulk in the new movie the Avengers when I was begining to think in a negative way. That broke my pattern and I began to laugh.

  9. Apologies for the slow turn around time. To be honest maybe its a character fall however when I get in a mental zone that is not productive I reach for the keyboard and make sure to put down something positive to counter the situation. Going through this program I now push that out a bit more and find 10 benefit situations from a negative CVS.

    Most recently I did not get a secure a customer. Instead of beating myself up about the wasted time I made 10 calls and laughed it off saying it took edison a thousand tries before he came up with the light bulb it took me only 10 attempts to get 5 new customers.

    Took a deep breath and went looking for 10 more that very day. Ended up getting 3 new clients that day and 2 the following day.

    Bang went from zero to triple hero!!!!

  10. I have a well-stock of jokes, which is good to occasionally break the tension.
    Recently, I was at lunch with new work colleagues, having a discussion on how to manage innovation in a corporate environment. My argument was that innovation needs encouragement rather than control, & his was that you can’t get investment until you have the innovation, so it’s a chicken & egg problem.
    In the middle of this, someone a few seats away came up with the idea of having regular meetings in that pub, on the basis that it’s the only time we seem to talk to each other about anything but work.
    I turned to my new friend & exclaimed “Try managing that kind of innovation!”

  11. Have taken myself too seriously too often. But as I look back now I find it humorous that I stood on my dig about things which really weighed about 0.5 of a gram!

    Now I can find humour in a situation which formerly I might have jumped up and down about. Is that maturity?

  12. Sometimes I struggle with left and right, difficult for a former military man! I regularly use that well hackneyed phrase “the other left” when I am in the wrong.

  13. I subscribe to the best humor, weekly newsletter from my old country. Reading it is a great pleasure.

  14. When i asked a contractor to make sure that in delivery and pick up of heavy machinery from the work site, it must be done in day light hours up to 11pm at night to avoid disturbing residents in the area, there were an air of resistance due to the fact that night hours are the times when machinery is normally moved. For me to show the contractor that i am serious, i injected humour in my conversation by saying that do it on the day when i am on my day off so that i won’t be bothered by residents’ complaints.

  15. perhaps it all depends on approach:

    When the approach is heavy the humourous play or banter is less easy;
    when the approach is lighter it is far easier for those present to express themselves without the tight restrain or check on expression.

    I like dry humour and find that this is best when I am tired or overworked.

    Having said this in my experience people perform much better once there is a an environment that includes humour.

    I think having a good sense of humour (different to the ability to remember and relate jokes) shows insight and intelligence.

  16. Often times I wanted to tell someone to be patient however I always find myself singing this song by way of humour …

    “Patience is a virtue,
    Virtue is a grace,
    Grace is a little girl,
    who never washes her face!”

  17. When someone sent me a photo of myself today I emailed her back and thanked her asking; who was that pot bellied old fella that looked a bit like me? He was even wearing the same colored clothing as I.

  18. When I was restocking confectionary at nightfill a customer walked down the isle and said ‘Can I resist getting something from the naughty isle’. I’ld never thought of the isle in this context so it was humorous to me and a mini escape from my p.o.v.

  19. I’m told I have a dry sense of humour, but clearly it isn’t working as I would hope at the moment. When things are tense at work, I try to add some humour, but lately have to keep saying to my manager, “I’m joking….”

  20. I recently was talking to one of my colleagues who was updating us about the project using the whiteboard. I was asking for clarity and was referring to something on his right. So I told him the word on your right. However he was looking/searching on the left side. Then I quipped “Its to your other right.” I used humour here to get out of a deadlock.

  21. i think i use humour all the time – for example when i think about something, what should or actually does make me feel sad/angry/aggressive – after a while some funny thought comes and the whole situation relaxes (only within me, but thats a start)

    just happened a few minutes ago – was out with the dog (in relax mode this kind of thinking happens easier; usually not during a fight 😉
    and thought about ex-boyfriend of my probably ex-girlfriend,… thought about asking him to move into my house, also because we have met again and again during our lives (and last time i took his girl …) and to have some kind of Melrose Place.

    well – this thought went on and at least changed my bad mood (because my probably ex-girlfriend went on holidays with her ex-boyfriend, didnt tell me about, but still lives with him…)

    sorry about bothering you with this very private story but i really enjoy this thinking games. I learned a lot today and now i am going to train.
    Have a good day

  22. The Comedy routines of George Carlin on a variety of topics including religion, global warming, consumerism and many others. He is (or was) a master at using humour to challenge peoples views and belief systems – but above all provoking thought.

  23. Does humor in the form of sarcasm count?

    Got together with friends for boba drinks. A friend said that he wasn’t invited to one of his ‘friend’s’ wedding. He then made statements about rejection, which the rest of us ‘laughed’ at. Feel that he was somewhat upset. After that, we moved on to a new topic.

    Though somewhat funny, but has his jokes helped him escape his point-of-view?

  24. I quite often use humour to escape from my point-of-view. A recent example is when I sent an email out to my team and a few of the boys had a bit of a joke about me leaving a letter of your (I wrote you) … it changed the context of the email and I joked with them that perhaps I had done it deliberately and then shifted the focus on to another reply to the email.

  25. As a humorous,i do it in my daily activities,in other to keep people around me going all time!humor had be part of me on daily usage.

  26. Give a recent example of how you have used humour to escape from your point-of-view.

    I use humor in a wide variety of situations: to express enjoyment, to point out some sarcasm , to consulate myself when things did not work, and also use humor to say in a subtle way “who cares”.
    However , I never use deliberately humor as a form of creativity or as a tool to escape from a current point of view.

  27. Recently, I used Humor to describe a situation that I triggered, and the humor that I used was to magnify the impact I created on a particular person.

  28. I needed to gather status on defects. I found that just asking for status was not getting results. I then started putting phrases in the subject line that I used in the email for a bit of odd humor. An example…we are almost done eating the elephant. The fact I included was that there are about 2000 8 oz servings in an elephant.

  29. I often teach Italian, students always make mistakes, I never told them you are wrong, instaed we use humor and lough in order to understand the mistake

  30. I like to keep meetings short and to the point which comes from watching a training video in the military called “Meetings bloody meetings”. I hate wasting mine and others time so I like to stop people wanting to repeat what others have already said and discussed. At times, I have to use humour to lighten the mood as initially people take offence at being told that their point has already been discussed – even when they have been informed of the rules.

  31. I play squash with the same gentleman each week during winter. The games are fairly even which makes for tough competition and a lot of fun. Some weeks seem to pass the baton of luck to my opponent on many critical points. When this occurs all I can do is laugh to myself, if the luck ran the other way things would be different. When this turn of events occurs, I try to have confidence in my game and ride out the luck. If I don’t laugh I will go crazy.

  32. We used humour to practice project management and economics case studies, with my friend
    Tinashe Makoni.

  33. I often use humour to escape my point of view. When a situation goes bad I can always see the funny side and I have always believed that in turn this has helped me resolve the issues.

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