Learning from comedy

comedian-josh-blue2Listen to most comedians and you realise their material is about really simple stuff, things from everyday life that they find amusing. They’re great observers of the world around them and frequently carry a note book for those occasions when they see what could form part of a funny story. One comedian recently told me about a incident on a train where a man had finished eating a banana and was left with the dilemma of what to do with the skin. A kind old lady noticed his predicament and pulled out a plastic bag from her handbag so the man could wrap the skin up neatly. Of course the comedian sees the irony in that – the skin (biodegradable) has been transformed into eco-unfriendly litter, good citizenship gone wrong!

Two points here: first, the natural curiosity of the comedian is a powerful trait that works well in business. John is focused on getting what he wants – material for his act. And because he knows what he wants, he notices incidents like the banana skin when others would miss them. Having clear focus and goals in your business will help you do the same. You’ll pick up things that complement the achievement of your goals.

Second, he’s very good at turning things he’s noticed into a story that works. Storytelling is a great skill in business presentations too, but you’ve got to make it relevant. There’s got to be a point to it – perhaps some metaphorical significance that serves to make your point really hit home.

A good training technique is to challenge colleagues to talk about a variety of objects laid out on a table. If it’s a tin can they’ll run out of things to say if they describe it literally, but if they make a metaphorical jump to say what it symbolises (perhaps longevity) they can easily expand on this and talk about things that last – eg strong business relationships.

So two things to take from comedy:

  • make sure you’re really clear on what you want – then you’ll see stuff you’d otherwise miss,
  • use real-life experiences to construct stories, so you can get a point across with impact and authenticity.

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