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Secrets of Effective Office Humor

Oct 27, 2015

A well-timed joke can diffuse tension, facilitate honest feedback, and foster loyalty. But the wrong comment can flop. So how do you refine your comedic instincts for a professional audience? The Wall Street Journal's "Secrets of Effective Office Humor" shares simple tips to help you hone your humor for the office, along with compelling research indicating comedy's hardcore benefits to the work world. Here's a sampling:

Employers like to hire people with a sense of humor, research shows. And mixing laughter and fun into a company culture can attract skilled workers, according to a study last year in the journal Human Relations. A 2011 study at Pennsylvania State University found that a good laugh activates the same regions of the brain that light up over a fat bonus check.
Read the article in its entirety here.
comedy office humour ucbworkplace wall street journal research

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Celebrating the Unexpected

Oct 27, 2015

By Chelsea Clarke

At times in my life, I've thought there must be some trick to feeling comfortable around unfamiliar people, places and situations. Sometimes, I'd miss the confidence boat, and I'd feel uncomfortable or out of the loop with a new group of people. Other times, I'd feel like myself: confident, somewhat extroverted, and silly. But I always hated meeting new people and starting new jobs because it meant starting the whole process over, and I couldn't predict whether I would get into the right groove. 

The new endeavors--jobs, schools, parties, friendships--I have felt most comfortable in share a common link: I showed a little bravery early, and it made all the difference. Maybe this was making a joke on the first day of class, or sharing an honest moment with a new coworker. But it was taking a small social risk, even when I was feeling uncomfortable, that gave a great return. 

To some extent, I had to fake it until I made it. Improv comedy works that muscle of pursuing fear. It requires us to be comfortable in unfamiliar situations, and to be aware and present in the moment instead of clinging to a plan. 

In my day to day life, I feel much more confident sharing ideas, being creative, having fun right away. I travel to teach workshops to high-powered executives and accomplished teams on their turf, something I never could have imagined doing before. And in social situations, I am friendly and make friends much easier. On the whole, I like my interactions with people, both in work and personal life, better since becoming an improviser. 

Sure, dealing with new situations still makes me nervous every once in a while, but improv has not only made me more brave than before, but has decreased my anxiety time. Improv helped me feel how rewarding it is to be fearless, which has turned my impulses to bail or become uncharacteristically introverted into impulses to be open, funny, and nonjudgmental of myself and others. 

Src: Chelsea Clarke
confidence ucbworkplace Chelsea Clarke fearlessness

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Improv for Innovation

Oct 27, 2015

By Ari Voukydis

Too often in any group creative endeavor the fear of failure weighs us down and makes us ordinary, so we pitch ideas safely or tentatively. What if you were able to create an environment in which we embraced failure as a perfect teaching tool, and rewarded the people who went out on a limb?

UCB is predicated on the idea that if you and I step onstage together, I have one singular, overriding goal: To make you look like an absolute friggin' genius. My goal is not to get laughs, or create art, or look good... it's to make sure that you do. And the trick is, you are doing the same for me.

It's not rocket science that the team who stops at nothing to make each other look good is going to go further than the team who stops at nothing to make each of themselves look good. The rocket science part is getting everyone into a headspace where they can truly put the group's welfare above their own. And nothing is better for teaching that experience than improv, because in improv if your team works together, you will succeed. And if your team doesn't trust each other, you will fail. Period. End of story.

At UCB we strive to create a culture of YES-AND. This means that when someone presents an idea, everyone is immediately on board. Not a second is spent evaluating the quality of the idea -- plenty of time for that after the show. In the moment that idea, no matter how silly or ill-conceived it might appear, is treated by everyone on the team like it deserves a Nobel prize. I may have a great scene in my mind about Abe Lincoln, but if before I say anything my scene partner says, "Happy 13th birthday, Sarah. Your father and I bought you a pony," then I'm going to shelve my own idea and dive into that pony party like it's freakin' HAMLET.

Once you can get your team to a place where they know that any idea - simple, complicated, smart or dumb - is going to be embraced and celebrated, what's going to happen is that people are going to be willing and eager to toss out their weirder, more off-the-beaten-track ideas. And this will lead to a whole lot more ideas that don't go anywhere, but it will also lead to brilliant stuff that has never been done. Why? Because all the safe ideas have already been done, and if successful innovation were easy, everyone would be doing it.

Let me close with a horrible and yet apt business cliche: You are more apt to go out on a limb if you're certain that your team is gathered beneath, waiting to catch you, than if they're crouched behind you, sawing the damn thing off.

Src: Ari Voukydis
improv ucbworkplace ari voukydis innovation

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