My Strategic Humor Principles for Success

I wrote this post on strategic humor principles over a dozen years ago! And even in that amount of time, I’ve evolved and I’ve put all of these to the test. In pretty much every capacity.

Strategic Humor Principles


I help businesses and teams become idea-driven cultures that flourish with creativity, and I use strategy, humor and applied improvisation to do that. While I use it in business, I’ve also been performing for two decades – stand-up, improv and sketch – on theater and comedy stages.

To say that humor has changed my life is a big understatement. Wow. It’s made me more me, more human and more connected to my purpose and to others. And it’s trained my brain to think creatively and spontaneously. It’s also about empathy and connection. I believe that humor is such key connective “tissue” between people. Don’t you?

I made a few tweaks since I originally created this post. I hope you enjoy it.

My Strategic Humor Principles

1. Humor is an attitude of fun. You can have a sense of fun without having to be “funny.” Don’t force the funny – you’ll hurt yourself. Humor opens you up to the joy of the moment. Attitude is the most important determinant of success. Time flies; you determine the joy of the ride. You are the pilot, co-pilot, flight attendant, and passenger. So travel with passion and humor.

2. Humor attracts like. When you share appropriate humor, you build rapport and strengthen relationships. Happy begets happy. It’s universal law. I don’t make those rules.

3. Humor oils the innovative engine. Use it regularly. It’s part of the creative process that drives innovation. When we use the humor brain, we are leveraging our most creative faculties – and engaging in “What if” scenarios. Sometimes the “A-Ha” comes during the “Ha-Ha.” Humor says “yes” to incongruity and spontaneity. In those “whoa!” moments, our brain is making creative associations between (and among) ideas to form something new, fresh, fun and surprising.

4.  Funny Makes Money. Especially true in speaking and writing. Laughing helps lowers our defenses so people listen and learn. And we all want to be educated, right?

5. Humor helps you (and your brand) stand apart from the crowd. Be Heard – Not One of the Herd. An organization that values humor and laughter creates positive energy that powers everything it does. A company that can laugh (especially at itself sometimes) adds a human dimension to its brand. Good humor doesn’t kill brands. People (doing dumb stuff) do.

6. Humor is the greatest people skill you can have. No kidding. It makes you likable. It opens up positive channels of communication with others. And we need more channels. It’s like emotional cable. Humor is highly correlated with emotional intelligence – and career success. Take that, and your bigger paycheck, laughing all the way to the bank. Until you get to the bank – most are not fun. They could be; here are a few that are.

7. Humor puts people at ease. It builds rapport and reduces tension. It’s a natural pain reliever that won’t hurt your liver – but excessive laughter can be “side-splitting.” Organizations that laugh more are more productive and less stressful. I stress that.

8. Humor aids in memory retention. Make people laugh – and they’ll remember you. People remember not what you did, but how you made them feel. Make people feel great. I don’t trust people without a sense of humor;-)

9. Humor is a part of a great customer-service strategy. It delights and surprises. Empower people to feel a sense of fun at work and to convey that in their interactions with customers. You can’t give to customers what you don’t feel internally as part of your corporate culture. Make sure your culture is happy, not crappy.

10. Humor is an indicator of morale and a key part of healthy culture. Rife inappropriate humor is a red flag for any organization. Don’t ignore it. Constant inappropriate humor indicates a lack of respect for the organization, its customers (look at Enron) and a lack of trust. These are lethal to a healthy corporate culture. If employees exhibit toxic humor, run away fast! It’s gonna blow!

11. Laughter is good for the soul. Mileage is inevitable, but smiling takes off years. It’s better than botox. Increase your “smileage” and turn back the “old-ometer.”

12. Humor is the best universal language (although ironically subjective culturally. Hmmmm.). So, move over math. That’s right, pi, I’m talking to you. Not you, pie. You are delicious.

Your turn! What has humor taught you? Any strategic humor principles you would add? I would love to know.

Want more articles and resources on humor? Here you go!


Kathy Klotz-Guest is a story and creativity strategist, speaker and author. An improviser and comedian as well as an MBA, MA, Kathy brings interactivity, energy and innovation to events, talks, and workshops. She’ll have your audience laughing and learning and that’s what it’s all about. Well, *that* and the hokey pokey.

Interested in having her speak at your company?

Contact Kathy.

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