Killing the Status Quo – Revisiting That Powerful Tool – HUMOR!

Deep PoetryDale Dauten authored “The Laughing Warriors: How to Enjoy Killing the Status Quo,” who, alongside Robert Fulghum, author of “Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” have taught me much about the sword and shield of humor.  Humor is a tool; it is the best tool in a leader’s toolbox, and “Dad Jokes,” especially those that are “a parent,” work the best.  Interestingly, when killing the status quo, one must first become creatively useful.

Creative Usefulness

Creative usefulness is a term coined by Dale Dauten (2003), which reminds us of a quote by Conrad Schneiker, “You can lead a horse to water, but if you can get it to float on its back, you’ve got something.”  Humor creates creativity in other people, allowing that humor-inspired person to do a job. It makes them useful first to themselves and then to others. As a result, humor and usefulness break out like sunshine after a moonless night!

How does the man in the moon cut his hair?
Eclipse it!

Dale Dauten (2003) nailed creative usefulness by changing the language of success.

“The Old Language of Success:
Persistence, Goals, Numbers, Positive Attitude

Versus

The New Language of Success:
Smiling, Laughing, Feelings, Saving, Helping”

Mediocrity JokeDauten (2003, p. 10-11) went further and added that creative usefulness is also ambitious helpfulness; this motivates people.  When your employees creatively use their talents, skills, and abilities, they become helpful to the whole brand, the full organization, and guess what, you never have to talk about employee morale or engagement.  How many fewer meetings would executives have per day if they were not discussing just these two items; a lot.  Meaning they could be on the floor listening, helping, and enjoying what they created: ambitious helpfulness and people’s growth.  Just remember, mediocrity is okay!

What happens when you squeeze a smurf?
You Papa smurf!

Slaying Mediocrity

Plant JokeMediocrity is acting in a mediocre manner.  Mediocre is nothing special; in fact, mediocre happens.  Mediocre is indistinguishable, lacking quality, indifferent.  In being indifferent, mediocre becomes deadly.  Avoiding mediocre attitudes and mediocrity in actions is not a perplexing problem; embrace mediocrity.  Sounds absurd, doesn’t it.  The whole world wants us to chase quality, nag people into higher performance, and organize differently into success.  Guess what; none of those things will bring happiness to ourselves, success to our organizations, and fulfillment to the employees around us.  Our brains will go on full alert in embracing mediocrity because we have been taught that mediocrity is dangerous.  Guess what; mediocrity IS dangerous.  Why embrace mediocrity; because therein, we find the problem with hierarchies, organizational designs, and strategical goals; we forgot the people!  Psychologists and geneticists find that the best way to reach people and get the best out of them is to remind them of their weaknesses.

What do you call a belt entirely made out of watches?
A waist of time!

Mediocrity is the safe spot, and people and institutions will invariably fall back to this spot as a personal safety zone.  Thus, stop criticizing yourself and those around you for being mediocre.  It is okay to be shy and to tell the world about your problems with being shy.  Business organizations bring out the worst in people, be liberated by that knowledge, and you can then begin to understand how humor and a laughing warrior mindset can help.  Use eyes that encourage.

What happened when prison wardens allowed inmates to take pictures?
Cellfies!

Looking Through Eyes that Encourage

Pigeon RevengeDuring my MBA, the current buzzword for improving people was “Management by walk-around,” and this philosophy has been incredibly popular while also being fantastically useless!  Why; because getting out and taking a walk helps only the manager, not those managed!  Worse, management by walk-around brought out the worst egos from their offices, and employees tuned out, turned off, and fell into mediocrity as a shield of protection from “know-it-all” leaders.  Want to change that; embrace a “learn-it-all” mentality.  When you walk out your door, ask the first person you see to teach you something.  Repeat for as many people as you encounter.

There are three signs of senility.
Loss of memory is the first one.
… I forget the other two!

When asking for help, take notes.  The action of taking notes reflects the seriousness of your desire to learn.  Plus, with a notebook in hand, you can remember to tell that funny joke you just heard after training completes.  Never forget, in fact, teach this to your employees through example, “Empty hands; Closed Mind!”  Dauten (2003, p. 40-41) quotes Shashi Gupta:

If you want to implement an idea, you must be able to answer three questions.”
What are the three questions?”
“The answer: “NO ONE KNOWS!”  (By the way, this includes the boss!)

Moon Re-EntryWhich would be more preferable, employees who ask questions or know answers?  How you answer this determines a lot about you and speaks volumes about what a consultant will find in your operations, employees, and customers.  As a consultant (since 2004), the number one expression I have heard consistently across the lower 48-states has been “No Way!,” followed closely by “Impossible!,” and “You are out of your mind!”  Why; the first excuse, “That is the way we do things here.”  Announcing for the world that processes never change, procedures never flex, and customers never change, so why not just keep doing what we have always done, ad nauseam ad infinitum.  When reality bit, all of these organizations saw stars, all lost tremendous amounts of capital, shrank operations, and many went bankrupt!

Overheard in a bar.
Patron 1: What does “IDK” mean?
Patron 2: I don’t know.
Patron 1: I cannot believe this; no one knows!

Cow and Moon JokeLooking through encouraging eyes is refusing to do the same thing over and over, expecting no changes ever to result; not looking through encouraging eyes is a short bus to insanity!  Looking with encouraging eyes is all about asking, “Why Not?”  Repeatedly.  Consciously.  Then looking at the answers and still stepping into the unknown with confidence.  Why not; when faced with a problem, ask your employees for solutions, input, and ideas; this leadership style uses “Appreciative Inquiry” to the fullest extent possible.  Why not; shake off the status quo, laugh, and enjoy the human element as a tool for creating great people dedicated to your brand.  Why not; ask the impossible, explaining the why, and see how the results occur.

True Story:  Whenever I have a problem, I sing…
Then I realize that my voice is a lot worse than my problems!

Pin by Tara Bites on for school in 2020 | Clean jokes, Jokes, Clean humorI am asking you to choose to become a laughing warrior, slaying the dragons of status quo one idiosyncratic obstacle at a time.  Having fun, growing people, improving business, and being adventurous.  Never forget, dehydrated water, in a can and pet rocks, sold like wildfire!

What do you call Security guards at the Samsung Manufacturing plant?
Guardians of the Galaxy!

Dehydrated water | | thetandd.com© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

NO MORE BS: Revisiting A Powerful Tool – Humor

GarnerCamden, Maine, I am wandering through a bookstore and randomly select a book, “Politically Correct Bedtime Stories,” authored by James Finn Gardner.  I laughed so hard; people chose to become offended.  From 1995 to the present, I have read and re-read these books, and they just get funnier!  Yes; I own all of Gardner’s books on being politically correct and read them often for a good chuckle!

I was visiting Camp Red Cloud, Uijeongbu, South Korea.  I stopped at the Post Exchange (PX) just looking and tripped across Robert Fulghum’s book, “It Was on Fire When I laid Down on it.”  I had never heard of this author, but after reading about the birdbath fire, the hose, and the burning mattress, I was hooked!  Another author who delights in telling stories that make me laugh.  If you have never read his books, make some time to read, then you too can enjoy the ultimate “Mother of the Bride” and the “Naked Lady and the Gorilla” stories.  Don’t mind me; I am laughing at the memories.

LinkletterHere I am, a person without memory for names, but I can tell you the details of these events like they happened yesterday.  Heck, just thinking about that bookstore in Camden, Maine, brings back the smell of the bookstore, the wood fire stove heating the place, and the person who suggested I visit that particular store.  Thus, the power of humor and the adventure of a good book.

When my wife and I first married, I read to her the Robert Fulghum books I had collected, we spent several evenings laughing merrily, and those memories I cherish!  I laughed so hard when I discovered that my wife could not understand the humor of politically correct bedtime stories.  Still, I rejoiced mightily when she discovered how funny Robert Fulghum was to her.  The best part of the Robert Fulghum books is how you can read them with a Hudson Bay mindset and enjoy them in small pieces or large equally.

I was traveling from Federal Way to downtown Seattle by bus and needed a book.  I grabbed my wife’s copy of Art Linkletter’s “Kids Say the Darndest Things!”  I laughed all the way to my job interview.  I discussed the book on the bus ride all the way back to Federal Way.  Great bus ride!  I have no idea who I sat beside, but we had a great conversation about books, kids, life, and humor.  “My Dad is a Stupidvisor!”

Why is humor so powerful?

Sword and ShieldHelmy and Frerichs (2013) pointed out the first and most significant role of humor “both as a sword and a shield.”  The Egyptian Revolution of 2011 was some dark days in the Middle East, but the terror of a revolution was significantly reduced through the use of humor, and “Egyptians laughed themselves into a democracy.”  Quoting Orwell (1945), Helmy and Frerichs (2013) related, “Every joke is a tiny revolution,” “humor is at its best when it is upsetting the established order.”  “Whatever …. brings down the mighty from their seats, preferably with a bump, is funny!”

Helmy and Frerichs (2013) add another aspect to humor, the paradox between playfulness and seriousness.  Consider this for a moment, how often has the environment been serious, but you have felt a desire to laugh.  I had this occur at a funeral for a dear friend; her grandson was being a typical boy and did something right in the middle of the funeral.  I laughed.  Totally not appreciated by the family and friends gathered, but it was funny.  My first command and staff meeting in the US Army, serious business, lots of high-ranking officers, lots of junior officers practicing seriousness, something was said, I laughed.  Few others followed, but the rest of the crowd’s disgusted looks soon stifled the humor out of the situation.  I learned a valuable lesson that day, when serious, be sure to laugh!

WWGDThus, bringing Smith (2009) into the mix of humor and seriousness by understanding the audience’s role in humor.  Smith (2009) writes about the Danish Cartoon debacle from January and February 2006, calling this event a grim series of events that proves humor is not a trivial matter.  Hello, the audience, for the most part, found the cartoons funny, and the only thing shown by those events in 2006 is that humor is also a choice.  Choose to be offended, and you can justify your offense by acting like a rube.  It happens daily when people choose offense, and then they start acting like a tantrum-throwing child in the grocery store cereal or candy aisle!

Yes; the audience does play a role in the humor level, but choosing to take offense is not allowed.  There are comedians out there who say outrageous stuff; I decide not to listen to them due to their vulgarity, which is okay with the vulgar comedian and me.  I am not the targeted audience for indecency in comedians and have even given some thumbs down to favorite comedians who have used vulgarity.  But, I do not go out and throw a tantrum just because I chose to be offended.

Why discuss these aspects of humor?

Semper GumbyHelmy and Frerichs (2013) explained best why these aspects of humor are important, “humor is both a sword and a shield.”  Political cartoons are one of the highest forms of humor, representing both a sword and a shield.  I have seen political cartoons cover the entire spectrum of human efforts and find them priceless examples of how to protect (shield) and attack (sword) the cartoons’ subjects.  For instance, I saw an “Iraqi SCUD Missile Launcher” political cartoon that has kept me chuckling for years.  The camel in that cartoon has the absolute best face.  In the US Army, a picture hung above my desk of a loon trying to swallow a frog, captioned,  “Never Give Up!”  A humorous reminder to me while working in my job at the time.

I currently have a picture of Gumby with the caption, “Semper Gumby” (Always Flexible), another humorous reminder of what I want in my mind and life.  When the WWJD wristbands came out, a friend spoofed them with WWGD (What Would Gumby Do?), and I laughed and laughed.  The sword and shield of humor are essential to personal health, group cohesion, team building, and much more, all because of what humor does in our brains.

Never Give Up!Watson, Matthews, and Allman (2007) remind us that humor relieves stress, facilitates social bonding, acting as an intrinsic reward, and powerfully activates significant portions of the brain, helping humans navigate complex social environments.  Chemicals are released in the brain when we laugh that mellows moods, opens possibilities for problem-solving, and generates goodwill.  As a nerd, I find the fMRI imaging used in Watson, et al’s. (2007) research fascinating.

In a “Liberty FIRST Culture,” laughter is both anticipated and acceptable.  Laugh!  Enjoy the humor in situations, for I can tell you a well-known truth, humans are funny!  Watching humans interact is hilarious.  Want to blow a cashier’s mind when they ask, “How are you?” tell them, “Breathing.”  Then stand and watch their face.  Hilarious!

Leap DayI was behind a person in line; with my sense of humor, the cashier asked, “How are you?” The gentleman said he was “pooping square turds.”  I laughed!  I still laugh.  What a line!  But, the cashier’s face was indescribably funny!  The gentleman paid for his groceries and left, as the next customer, the cashier, was still off her mojo during our transaction.  I was there for her next customer and witnessed the cashier still was off her mojo for that customer.  I have no idea what that cashier thought about this transaction, but I found it an incredibly great break from the ordinary.

ResilienceLaughter is good!  Use it, know it, and practice it.  The best tool in the world is to make someone else laugh.

Non Sequitur - Carpe DiemReferences

Helmy, M. M., & Frerichs, S. (2013). Stripping the boss: The powerful role of humor in the Egyptian Revolution 2011. Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science, 47(4), 450-481.

Smith, M. (2009). Humor, unlaughter, and boundary maintenance. Journal of American Folklore, 148-171.

Watson, K. K., Matthews, B. J., & Allman, J. M. (2007). Brain activation during sight gags and language-dependent humor. Cerebral cortex, 17(2), 314-324.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

Shifting the Employment Paradigm – Or, ‘Organizational Psychology to the Rescue’

Before reading further, please follow this link:  Sir Ken Robinson – Changing Education Paradigms.  Sir Ken Robinson discusses changing the education paradigms and lays out a genetic heritage in modern schools.  This same model applies to modern business and the discussion here is to shift the business employment paradigm.  The reason is simple; Dauten (2003) discusses it and makes this proclamation, “Accept that organizations call to the worst in human nature, and be LIBERATED by that knowledge.”  [Emphasis mine]  Happiness is a choice.

As happiness is a choice, all emotion is a choice.  The choice is individual in nature and comes as a response to external stimuli in the environment.  Emotional choices build upon previous choices, snowballing into consequences affecting more than the individual and current environment.  Like ripples on a pond, enough ripples and waves appear; enough waves and danger to small craft can occur.  Emotional choices are similar to ripples on a pond increasing in size and frequency until damage occurs.

Dauten (2003) goes on to describe some interesting points in his book, ‘The Laughing Warriors: How to Enjoy Killing the Status Quo,’ namely, the genetics of why organizations continue to experience the same problems, the same genetics mentioned by Sir Ken Robinson.  These genetic problems are historical in nature, aggravated by government influence, multiplied by labor unions, and are 100% correctable through simplification and shifting the paradigm.

America learned early in the Industrial Revolution from those who considered themselves “enlightened” how to form organizational cultures.  Although the process was de-humanizing, the culture worked, to some extent, early in the Industrial Revolution, but the core problems in the genetic make up had not been addressed.  These enlightened founders of organizations knew the process was incomplete, stated their perceptions were not the full answer, and hoped those following would take the beginning they established and improve upon the design.  Dauten (2003) declares, rightly, “… People are hardwired for mediocrity and conformity.”  From this genetic make up comes bureaucracy, which supports more fear, and more conformity promotes mediocrity shunning change and learning in an attempt to cling bitterly to that which vexes all men, bureaucracy.

Consider the functioning culture of the Department of Motor Vehicles, Veteran’s Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, or any other behemoth bureaucratic organization that exhibits an organizational culture born from inefficiency, duplicity of work, lack of interest and enthusiasm, lack of desire to please, lack of accountability and responsibility, and much more, which causes impediment of work accomplishment, slow service, and often outright aggravation.  The example is clear; Dauten (2003) is correct; there is a genetic code calling for people to build inadequately designed organizations that down trod and digress rather than uplift and progress.  The functioning of such monolithic, controlling, inadequately structured organizations absorbs resources, devalues people, and almost repels change.  Change is feared; thus the tool of free people everywhere remains, initiate, demand, and force change.

The answer to resolving organizationally fed genetic bureaucracy is shifting the paradigms.  Paradigm is defined as a model or pattern.  One example of a paradigm is hierarchy, or work flow and command structure in a business organization.  Often linear hierarchy is the only method of describing this structure.  Shifting from a linear hierarchical structure to a circle hierarchy, parallel hierarchy, or eliminating hierarchy all together is, more often than not, unfathomable.  Thus, organizational psychology holds the answer to improving organizational dilemmas in shifting the hierarchy paradigm.  The topics of “Change Management,” “Organizational Communication,” or “Hierarchical Structure” fall into a simple paradigm in the purview of organizational psychologists intent on improving people to improve performance in business organizations.  More simply put, organizational psychologists review the genetic bureaucracy and help people rewire their individual response to environmental stimuli.  Dauten (2003) calls this the process of becoming a “Happy Warrior” “… intent on killing the status quo.”

Shifting the employment paradigm requires business leaders to consider letting go of the outdated term and perception of employee to focusing on people and their crafts.  At the same time, employees must let go of the genetic assumption that they are incapable of being a boss, being creative, or improving the job while working at the job. Letting go of these thoughts and gaining control of their rights to control their own destiny is essential to the success of the individual as well as the organization.  The Federal Government took the ‘Right to Control’ away from individuals, making them subservient to employers, and shifted the paradigm of control into an unnatural environment.  This single action has caused myriad problems, which bear fruit in the organizational culture, hierarchy, and societal problems in our modern world.

The natural order, provided to man from a higher being, is the individual right to control one’s own destiny.  The Declaration of Independence clearly delineates this natural order and describes man’s ‘pursuit of happiness.’  Once the ‘Right to Control’ was removed from the individual, the unforeseen consequences included groupthink, box thinking, drones forming larger bureaucracies, run-away mediocrity, unbridled conformity, and stifled creativity.

Shifting the employment paradigm should not need a ‘Declaration of Independence’ to bring attention to the need for change, but, if proclaiming independence through a declaration raises awareness to the problem and success is achieved, then employees the world over should ascribe.  The basic tenets of a declaration of employee independence should include:

  • The ‘Right to Control’ – Individuals want it back from their employers, unions, and government.  This ‘Right to Control’ comes with the following:
    • Schedule freedom
    • Remuneration for knowledge attainment
    • Control of the working environment
    • The power to affect change
    • Hierarchical Organization
    • Benefits that possess value – Cost and value are not the same and the new knowledge worker recognizes this fact.
    • Win-Win – Providing services in exchange for money requires a “Win-Win” scenario.  Thus, the organization wins workers, the workers win an organization to serve, both parties remain independent, and both parties can negotiate changes to improve.
    • Responsibility to:
      • Be treated as a knowledge worker
      • Treat others as knowledge workers
      • Level the knowledge playing field through acquiring new knowledge
      • Experimenting to drive value
      • Valuing experimentation in others’ performances
      • Honor – Work is honorable.

It remains imperative of the worker to take what is valuable to him/her and add these points into the conversation.  The business organization also must present that which they value and bring their points, ideas, requirements, into the conversation.  Thus, through the power of negotiation and debate, the employment paradigm is shifted.

Reference

Dauten, D. (2003). The Laughing Warriors: How to enjoy killing the status quo. Richmond, CA: Lumina Media.

© 2012 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved