This post is part of a 95 post series discussing the 95 theses of the Cluetrain Manifesto as they relate to business in 2009. Read more about the series in the introduction post. And check out the rest of the series!

Thesis #22: Getting a sense of humor does not mean putting some jokes on the corporate web site. Rather, it requires big values, a little humility, straight talk, and a genuine point of view.

In the previous example, I pointed to a couple of very tangible experiences where a sense of humor improved my experience as a customer. But aligning those experiences with this thesis, you begin to realize that there’s more to humor’s effectiveness than clever scripting.

Wikipedia sez humor occurs when:

  • An alternative (or surprising) shift in perception or answer is given that still shows relevance and can explain a situation.
  • Sudden relief occurs from a tense situation. In this context, humour is often a subjective experience, as it depends on a special mood or perspective from its audience to be effective.

Getting a sense of humor is hard because humor is fueled changing your perspective.

Business is notorious for stagnation. So long as profits aren’t down, there must not be a problem.

Stay the course. Stay the course.

Oh, that massive inefficiency in our process? Who cares.

Didn’t I tell you, profits aren’t down?

It boggles my mind how many businesses don’t seek improvement until there is a problem. And more often, they can’t even see the problem until it’s too late because they weren’t checking operations from more than the most comfortable angle available. On their asses. Behind their desks. Looking at spreadsheets.

Changing your perspective in itself is a valuable action for you to take for your business. Along with an opportunity to understand and, maybe even invoke some humor about your business, you have a chance to take a look at business process from that new vantage point. Poke holes. Experiment.

There’s a LOT to be said for some quality self-analysis, and the willingness to take on a sense of humor is a good incentive.

This is your chance to own your problems instead of keeping them outside of your field of vision. Maybe you can even make a joke about the problem once you know about it.

Relief of tense situations

Shit happens.

If you freak out, like a deer in headlights, you’re paralyzed.

Isn’t there something soothing when someone can take an otherwise tense situation and diffuse it with humor? It needs to be done carefully, but the sense of likability that can come with a good understanding of humor has a good chance of taking the edge off some potentially tense situations.

Some notes, though.

  1. Don’t be condescending.

That’s part of being genuine.

  1. Don’t laugh at the customer. Laugh at yourself.

That’s humility.

  1. You want them laughing with you.

That’s teamwork, and that’s progress.