What’s so funny about innovation?

Anything compelling has to have a human element to it, but humans are inherently complex, and therefore unpredictable. The most successful innovations often seem counter-intuitive when they are introduced, but that’s what can make them so valuable. So, if logic so often fails, how do you innovate and create brands, products, and services that people will connect with, care about, and value? In this talk, we take a cue from stand-up comedians: like brands, they have to consistently deliver fresh, innovative thinking that their audiences relate with. What lessons can designers and brands learn from the deliberately counter-intuitive comedy industry? Join Paul Valerio, Principal at experience design firm, Method, and Baratunde Thurston, comedian and best-selling author, for a Q&A on comedy and how it can be used for brand, product, and service innovation.

Bartunde Thurston - What's So Funny?


Paul Valerio, @method_inc
Baratunde Thurston, @baratunde

1. Know your audience, then ignore their advice.

Lousy ideas and good ideas test really well, especially when they are in the comfort zone of the audience that are being tested.

The first test, do I think it works? Do I think it’s funny?

Part of your role is to know what your audience knows. What is their understanding? By knowing this, you make guesses about what your audience will like. This is where you innovate.

2. Data does not replace insight.

You have to explore the raw material to know the audience - to make insights.

The more you practice something - stand up comedy - the better you get at it.

3. Keep it fresh.

How do you know when to start over? Fatigue sets in after you’ve performed something over and over again.

Find new, in the old. Rework or deliver your material in a different way.

Should you make a change before an audience gets tired of your act or message? Generally, you will get tired of it before your audience gets tired of it.

4. Develop your own point of view.

The point of view is the most unique thing you have. We have a limited ability to articulate what we want or need.

It’s much more satisfying to be satisfied with something that we don’t or didn’t know that we need.

5. Don’t expect everyone to get it.

Sometimes you fail. Sometimes the audience sucks. What’s your metric for success?

6. You can’t test your way to a decision.

Research is an aid to judgement, not a replacement. Launch! Then use insight and judgement to iterate.

How to deal with creative block? Listen to the world. Excercise. Talk to friends. Get out of your structure. Distract yourself.

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  • G. Brad Hopkins
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