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Business & Management Lessons from Humour

Businesses (and people) over time develop habits and patterns of working. Sometimes these lead to success. However often they stop management from seeing reality – especially when the business environment changes. Competitive intelligence can identify these business blindspots – both in the company itself, and in its competitors. Taking advantage of competitor blindspots is a major way that a company can beat its competitors, so it is crucial to understand one’s own blindspots so as to protect oneself from possible attack.

Business problems can be shown through humour. Humour allows businesses to take a step back and see a problem applied to a situation that appears different to their own. One can also sometimes see similar behaviour in one’s own organisation – thus highlighting a possible blindspot. Humour is just one technique for showing blindspots. Others include the use of drama workshops and story-telling, or war-gaming where the business environment is modelled and management try and take an external look at their and their competitor situations.

The following “stories” and office “theories” are taken from our humour database – with a random selection shown. Refresh the page for further examples.

Make sure you understand your information sources

A film crew was on location deep in the desert. One day an old Indian went up to the director and said, "Tomorrow rain." The next day it rained.
A week later, the Indian went up to the director and said, "Tomorrow storm." The next day there was a hailstorm.
"This Indian is incredible," said the director.
He told his secretary to hire the Indian to predict the weather for the remaining of the shoot. However, after several successful predictions, the old Indian didn't show up for two weeks. Finally the director sent for him.
"I have to shoot a big scene tomorrow," said the director, "and I'm depending on you. What will the weather be like?"
The Indian shrugged his shoulders. "Don't know," he said. "My radio is broken."

Make sure that you fully understand your sources of information - and any drawbacks or weaknesses associated with them, before using them for any major plans.


Rules of Work

Never walk without a document in your hands.
People with documents in their hands look like hardworking employees heading for important meetings. People with nothing in their hands look like they're heading to the staff restaurant or the coffee machine. Worse though is to walk with a newspaper. People with a newspaper in their hand look like they are heading to the bathroom. If you have to read a newspaper, read it at your desk holding a pair of scissors or a highlighter pen. That way people will think that you are working and looking for suitable articles to add to the company clipping service.
This rule about carrying documents is especially important when leaving work at the end of the day. Make sure that you are seen to carry loads of stuff home - giving the impression that you work much longer hours than you do.

Based on ideas from BBC Television's The Office.