Anatomy of a Creativity Technique

Image by Simon James - Menage a Moi

Why are Jokes Funny?

I’ve always been fascinated by why some jokes are funny, and others are not. Great jokes are deceptively simple. They are often just one or two sentences long. And yet, a simple joke can have multiple layers of humour and truth.

Whilst most of us are able to tell a joke to elicit a reaction, we find it more difficult to explain why the joke works. Comedy writer Jan McInnis thinks that a good joke involves a set-up with the subject and facts, and a punch line that highlights the irony, twists the joke in another direction, or gives an outrageous result (

But this description does not necessarily explain why some jokes work better than others, why some are regarded as classics, while others are forgotten immediately. We seem happy to tell jokes and laugh at them, but not to dissect them and understand their inner workings.

I think that it is similar with creativity techniques. Some work well, others do not. Great creativity techniques are also deceptively simple. They often involve just one or two steps, and yet can unleash considerable creative power. And whilst I know how to make it happen, I do not always understand how or why it happens. And I’m not alone in this.

This gap in our knowledge bothers me. I think that we could deliver creativity support more effectively if we understood how different techniques work. So what to do?

My proposal is to investigate the inner workings of different creativity techniques – theoretically, logically and empirically. I am sure what we learn about the anatomies of creativity techniques will be fascinating.

Who wants to join us in this creativity dissection?


8 thoughts on “Anatomy of a Creativity Technique”

    1. Lucy

      Great. My thinking is to select one or more techniques that we are familiar with, apply them to a problem/situation, then reflect and analyze with the users how they worked or did not. This might involve replaying a situation, walking through it again… Could this be done?


    1. Very much so.
      Of course, there are many different social contexts, including the objects around us, time available etc. Any thoughts on what is most interesting to explore?

  1. Interesting thoughts!

    What I understood from my work on links between creativity and (serious) games, is that there are some common factors which result in better immersion and creative outcomes, such as challenge and humor – but how to make a good recipe out of these ingredients stays indeed an open question. I wonder how close dissection could approach us to the answer?

  2. Dissection will not provide all of the answers.
    But it can provide some. And more interestingly, like jokes, it has not been attempted that often. The worst-case outcome is glorious failure that will teach us something

    1. With perhaps a few surprises thrown in just for the fun.

      This reminded me of a video I recently watched. It’s about one woman’s work on anatomy of a great talk. After years of dissection of famous talks, she came up with a rather simple pattern, that bounces between “what is” and “what could be”:

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