Sarcasm is the idea of using irony in a way to mock somebody or to insult them. While sarcasm can be insulting and hurtful to somebody, it also has an important positive aspect.
Sarcasm can lead to higher levels of creativity.
New research by Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School, Adam Galinsky, the Vikram S. Pandit Professor of Business at Columbia Business School, and Li Huang of INSEAD, the European business school, found that sarcasm is a process that activates the mind and it’s facilitated by abstraction that promotes creative thinking.
Sarcasm is like a mental gymnastics routine that boosts your creative output.
Not everybody appreciates sarcasm but it definitely has a positive effect on peers. Unlike sarcasm between parties who distrust each other, sarcasm between individuals who share a trusting relationship does not generate contempt, but in fact, builds a more trusting relationship.
A sarcastic remark during a creativity session tells you that a creative act has just happened. Sarcasm is a form of humor. And just like any other form of humor, it tells you when the creative act has occurred. A creative idea is generated when two unrelated things suddenly combine. It’s the unexpected juxtaposition of these two unrelated themes. Therefore, a funny, sarcastic comment, tells you that a great idea is lurking right around the corner.
Using the SIT method, it forces you to take this strange, sarcastic concept and work backwards on the benefit. And just like the SIT “function follows form,” you go from the solution back to the problem instead of the other way around.
Here’s a concrete example:
From this solution of “locking the doors,” you actually go backward to figuring out what the problem is. Research shows that humans are actually much better at taking this strange starting point and working backwards to a benefit that it delivers.
So, the next time you receive a pretty sarcastic remark, use that as a raw material to challenge yourself and the group to come up with creative ideas. Or think about the times you were being sarcastic yourself. What have you actually created with that sarcastic comment and is there a way to harness it and turn it into something of true benefit?
To hear more on how sarcasm enhances creativity, listen to the full podcast episode here: Episode 022: You’re Awesome! How Sarcasm Enhances Creativity.