Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Is creativity a joke?

         This morning, I heard on the radio the results of a study involving Robin Williams. After listening to five minutes of his comedy, the survey participants suddenly became 20% more creative in solving problems. Speaking was Jonah Lehrer, author of "Imagine: How Creativity Works".

        I never would've suspected that humor leads to creativity. I've always thought it worked the other way around.  That creative people would be 20% funnier than non-creative people.

       The link between comedy and creativity has interested me for some time. In high school, I became a scholarly observer of comedians, comparing their techniques, their timing, their facial and body motions, and so on. I took copious notes. I thought that, somehow, that interest (and my long-lost ability to mimic them) contributed to my ability in advertising.

        Most of the advertising that we call creative tends to be funny. We love humorous commercials, quoting them to our friends and posting them on YouTube. It's the unemotional straight ones that we call boring.

        Like ad people, comedians have to be quick on their feet. They have to think fast and respond fast, lest the humor be lost. Or they get hit with tomatoes. I believe this speed facility is related to intelligence, another ingredient of creativity.Yes, the Three Stooges were smart.

         Steve Jobs said creativity was the ability to connect things. To connect existing ideas in a way that creates something new. That, of course, is what creative people do. So do comedians, when you think about it. Creativity always seems like more than a connection, but Jobs certainly was a creative connector --- of people, of ideas and knowledge --- and the results were incredible products.

        This connection business can be misleading. I don't think you can just sit back and wait for your brain to connect things. It's probably more productive to try to solve a problem, and let the connections seep in.

        In advertising, we're charged with connecting people with products and services. I suggest starting with people, and working the connection to products. Starting with products is where all the uncreative advertising comes from.

        Come to think of it, maybe we all should start by listening to Robin Williams.



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