Thursday, July 8, 2010

Why So Serious, Microsoft?

Humor is extremely important for navigating life and business. Humor is a winning tactic in advertising. Humor helps make the world a better place. It was valuable therefore to find this hilariously deadpan page from Microsoft’s corporate website where humor is presented as a Core Competency. Here humor is coached with bullet points, management-speak and a Proficiency Level chart (Basic through to an Expert, “who can see humor in almost everything, and uses humor as a uniting dynamic across a range of situations”).

The software pioneer has not been the hippest of high-techs, so I’m hoping they’ve aced it this time by suggesting that employees “practice learning frivolous and fun skills” like square dancing and juggling, find humorous role models such as clergy or community leaders, and develop humor based on universal topics such as “misers, bad drivers and absent-minded people”.

Some gems from the self-assessment section:
  • “Am I funnier than I think I am? Less funny? Who will give me an honest assessment of my sense of humor?”
  • “Do I ever encourage a near party atmosphere because of my comfort with using humor?”
  • “In a seemingly serious situation, what nuggets of humor or irony can I find?”
“Learning on the Job” humor lesson #5 is about “Being funnier.” “There are some basic humor tactics. Use exaggeration, use reversal, be brief. Cut out unnecessary words. Humor condenses the essential elements of a situation, just as good writing does. If the time of day or the color of the sky or city it happened in is not relevant, leave it out. Be on the lookout for the ridiculous around you. Jot down funny things that happen around you so you can remember them.”

The humor dossier puts forward an alarming picture of life on campus: “We all have bad bosses, bad staffs, hopeless projects, impossible tasks, and unintended consequences… the key is how you can learn from each of them.”

Some have suggested to me that this isn’t tongue-in-cheek but for real - particularly since it’s a component of their color-wheel of 39 success factors. Say it isn’t so Steve.