Live Laugh Work – understanding humour at work

Buy Humour, Seriously

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How the heck did we end up thinking that humour and serious work are in opposition to each other?

Today’s guests, Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas, run a tremendously successful course at Stanford Business School on how we can all use humour to be better (and happier) at our jobs.

One of the people they have coming along to guest speaker at their course is Dick Costolo, Dick was my former boss as CEO of Twitter (and hired me to work there). He had an unorthodox background spending his post college years initially trying to make it as an improv comedian at the legendary comedy club Second City in Chicago (alongside people like Steve Carrell from The Office). I mention it because it comes up in conversation. In my first three months at Twitter I had an excruciating embarrassing episode with Dick, he was coming to London and was doing an event for us. I’d lined him up to be in conversation with Rory Sutherland. His assistant told me that I should get to his hotel for breakfast, get a nice table and order his food for him. Breakfast should be full cooked breakfast with plenty of crispy bacon. It had to be crispy. I’m not sure if she was trolling me but oh dear. The story deserves a full telling another time because it became a calamitous moment for me. When you hear mention of him this is why they laugh.

“When we observe humour in others it’s so much more about mindset”

Jennifer and Naomi say students tell them “I’m not funny, I don’t want to try to be funny” and this is the important revelation, to experience humour we don’t need to seek to be the star of the skit, but more we need to allow ourselves to laugh at the lightness of a moment.

At the end of the book they give a context for the book, Jennifer’s mother works in a hospital dealing with patients who at the end of their lives are asked to reflect on how they would have spent time differently. It becomes clear that the absence of joy in their everyday lives was unnecessary and tragic.

Take their quiz to find your own humour style.