A startup which laughs together stays together

18th Sep 2017
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Startups are eventually great ideas trying to sprout. And irrigated by the power of laughter and humour, they just might blossom to bear promising fruit.

Sure, nurturing a startup is no laughing matter. Often it can be an ‘all or bust’ undertaking, which puts the lives of the people involved at stake.

However, if there is one reason why people are breaking from the constrains of ‘conventional’ corporate thinking and venturing into something new; it’s because this is an opportunity to embark on something completely different -- as Monty Python might have chosen to put it.

Startups are arduous labours of love. They represent highly personalised interpretations of what companies can be like. They ignite beacons of cultural differentiation, which serve to reposition established dogmas in everyday corporate systems and processes. At a very minimum, they give people harangued by previous office experiences a chance to smile once again.

Perhaps all the more reason for these new-age adventures to openly embrace laughter and joy in their daily functioning. Because not only does that usually reflect back in the balance sheet, these tales of mirth and merriment find their way back to other organisations, compelling them to become more employee friendly places as well. And that can only be a noble quest.

A company which laughs together stays together

One thing which strikes many people when they are conversing with startup employees is how much fun they seem to be having, even when the work pressure is very intense. If a study were ever to be undertaken, it is very likely a high correlation might be found between the decibel level of laughter in the corridors and the prospects of the company.

Organisations which consciously design their workspaces so that employees can naturally unwind, and even feel energised to make the daily trip, are high on aspiration when it comes to young minds looking to join the corporate bandwagon. Think about the legend around offices like Facebook, Google and Semco (to name just three), which have served as magnets for incoming talent. Many offices across India are taking the cue and going the extra mile to make their offices fun places to be at. Informality in interaction, no dictatorially enforced dress codes, and engaging group activities to fuel camaraderie and bonhomie, are all turning long-held cultural ‘norms’ on their head. An environment of laughter also makes for more openness and transparency. It boosts the emotional well being of employees, and bonds them even more strongly to the workplace. And that is surely nothing to snicker about.

Make them smile & laugh your way to the bank

In these over-cluttered, hyper-stressed and extremely distracted times, it has become the responsibility of just about every business to also entertain its customers. The relationship between the customer and the business has long transitioned from the commercial to the emotional realm. Every business knows the better they make the prospect feel, the more likely she is to walk through their doors again. This is where transmitting that laughter (already hopefully bristling within the company) to customers outside can assume so much more importance.

Southwest Airlines has created some epic brand myths in this regard in terms of how their cabin crew went the extra mile in the sky to bring joy all around. But even simple things, like getting callers to listen in to the ‘joke of the day’, can go a long way in ensuring organisations keep their customers well and truly hooked. Every customer interaction must be seen not just as a ‘moment of truth’, but also as an ‘opportunity to kindle a smile’. Customers highly appreciate light heartedness in their interaction, given how somber much of the rest of their day can be. The old adage ‘laugh and the world laughs with you’ does seem to have a business context to it.

Great ideas lurk at the end of a chuckle

Every startup is also in the relentless quest for better ideas; from those that will make their offering more potent and attractive to those which could settle internal and external conflicts. Ideas are the actual currency which keeps startups bankable. And yet the entire process of idea generation is usually relegated to stiff upper-lipped, cerebrally debilitating ‘brain storming’ sessions. The onus of generating new concepts is rather unwisely, in economic terms, laid on this one hour where people are forced to huddle together, rather than making it a seamless and continuous process, which permeates through the rest of the working day.

Humour has been found to be strongly linked to creativity -- the process of generating original ideas which have value. This is because the very concept of humour is predicated on merging diverse domains, changing the frame of reference, and traveling in the opposite direction to the norm; all worthwhile exercises when any organisation is in the pursuit of innovation. Hence inducing laughter consciously amidst brainstorms -- using either jokes as ‘controlled digressions’, or employing imaginatively irreverent lateral thinking tools (for example, thinking about the problem like a famous person), will always make for better ideas. And a culture which allows humour in every aspect of its working might not even find it necessary to hold such sessions separately. Ideas will be bubbling forth at every water cooler gathering.

To conclude, the great science fiction author Isaac Asimov once mused, “The phrase which most accompanies great ideas is not ‘Eureka’, but ‘Hey! That’s funny’”. Startups are eventually great ideas trying to sprout. And irrigated by the power of laughter and humour, they just might blossom to bear promising fruit. All the more incentive for those involved to keep seeing the funny side of things.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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