Using Humor to Improve Team Dynamics

Laughing can have a positive effect on learning. Laughter and humor are part of the human experience. We have the ability to laugh at others and ourselves, to make jokes, to add humor to situations (which are seemingly without humor) and to be absurd. Humor is a part of everyone’s experience.

Scientific research has shown some significant results concerning how humor can benefit the health of an individual. Humor has been correlated to stronger relationships in groups, suggested to be a coping mechanism against adversity and even been shown to have significant positive effects on the physical health of a person. It also improves learning, retention of new information and creativity.

Given the fact humor is part of being human and the research showing it can enhance learning, using humor in team building is a credible approach. What is the best way to incorporate humor into training? For purposes of this discussion, humor will be divided into two main types. The first is standup comedy. This generally takes the form of an individual telling funny stories or jokes to an audience. It is rarely interactive. The joke is told and the audience either laughs or does not. The primary form this takes in business is the humorous after dinner speech. The speaker will usually have a “point” about improving business that will be made in an entertaining manner. While this can create an enjoyable meeting, it rarely has any long term impact in the workplace.

The second approach is improvisational comedy. In this scenario a knowledgeable trainer leads the participants in a series of exercises. In each “game” the participants create the humor by their activity in the game. To improve team dynamics it is important the trainer debrief the group on the application of the skill learned in the exercise to the workplace. Team dynamics change in the game. Participants laugh with each other instead of “at” someone. When skillfully applied by a professional trainer, this game change easily affects workplace change.

Humor has a very important impact on human behavior. When skillfully applied by a qualified facilitator, comedy can have a positive influence on participants during (and after) a team building event.