Use Humor to Enhance Creativity

by Jeff Justice, CSP

According to Dr. Warren Fry of the University of Chicago, one benefit of laughter is that it produces an endorphin-like effect in your body — endorphins are your body’s natural painkillers, and laughter causes your body to mimic their pain-relieving impact. Use Humor to Enhance CreativityResearch shows laughter may increase your T-cell count for fighting disease.

Think about dis-ease being the opposite of ease.  Your brain and your body respond to your mental state in complex ways.  For instance, when researchers have measured the chemical composition of tears produced by joy and laughter, they have found their makeup is different from tears of sorrow and pain.  There’s more to tears than just salt water!

So what does this have to do with creativity?  When you are under a deadline, stress is a creativity killer.  In such circumstances, have you ever said, “Let’s get serious”?  I don’t believe “serious” is the best environment for creativity to flourish.  I encourage people to loosen up by having fun, because the best thinking often flows out of a more spontaneous, tension-free environment. 

Oxygen flow to the brain increases when we laugh.  Dr. Norman Cousins reported an event involving The Hartford Group, a world-class think tank of creative people and world leaders in the early 1960s, during one of their meetings to brainstorm solutions to world problems.  This conference occurred two weeks after the Cuban Missile Crisis, which many feared would end in nuclear war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.  Tensions and suspicions were high as the session began with participants telling a favorite story.  A Russian General spoke up and asked, “What’s the difference between Capitalism and Communism?”  What a question — it was at the heart of the crisis they were considering.  His answer: “In Capitalism, man exploits man. Under Communism, it’s the other way around.”

Everybody laughed and wound up having a much more successful meeting.  In this situation, everyone was able to laugh as the General laughed at himself and let go of his ego.  This allowed the group to laugh at their shared predicament and produced a more relaxed and creative setting.  As Victor Borge observed, “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”

If you found these tips from Jeff Justice, CSP of value and are a PMP looking to earn PMI PDUs, you might be interested in his self-paced, downloadable courses at


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