What Do You Get When You Cross a Cat and a Mitten? (How Jokes and Making Connections Improves Your Creative Thinking)

A ‘Camitten’.

My 5 year old son made up this joke. It’s his favorite. So when I came across the ‘Tell a Joke’ exercise in the book ‘The Secret of the Highly Creative Thinker’ (Nielsen & Thurber) I was amused and amazed. Amused to see that children are naturally doing the things we adults need to relearn through a book, and amazed by the power and flexibility of the human brain to become more creative simply through the conscious act of making connections.

In their book, Thurber and Nielsen site evidence that highly creative thinkers are simply good at making connections where others do not. And that no matter what our baseline of creative thinking is, by consciously training our brains to make connections, we will unconsciously and naturally start doing the same. Just like strengthening a muscle, various exercises are provided in the book to encourage us to make connections and start looking at the world differently.

So how does telling a joke improve your creative thinking? Well, the particular kind of joke Thurber and Nielsen refer are like the one my son made up. Jokes that help make a connection. ‘What do you get when you cross a ________ with a ________?’ When you practice making connections, you rewire your brain to think differently, see things that are not directly in front of you, see things in front you in unconventional ways, and connect A to B in more ways than one. Isn’t that what problem solving and innovation is all about?

Tying this in to the workplace, ask yourself, ‘What would my organization look like if every person in it could make unusual connections, think more creatively … and tell more jokes?”

For more exercises, and to stretch your creative muscles, read the book!

It’s a good one.