Technically Speaking Series

Why Technical Leaders Should Embrace Playfulness and Humor | Technological Leadership Institute

Series Event Date: Thursday, October 16, 2014 - 5:30pm

Location: Thomas H. Swain Room

Speakers: Professor Barry Kudrowitz, Director of Product Design at the University of Minnesota

This interactive talk discussed connections between creativity, prolific idea generation, humor, and play. Specifically, humor and creativity both involve making non-obvious connections between seemingly unrelated things. In controlled, time-limited idea generation studies, we found that improvisational comedians produce more creative ideas than professional designers and engineers. Furthermore, people can generate significantly more ideas after improvisational training. Researchers have found that a playful attitude is helpful in creative problem solving. When we play, we are fully engaged in an activity; we can look at problems in different ways and suggest less obvious solutions. Unfortunately people tend to play less as we age especially in work environments. If we want to be creative technical leaders, we need to encourage and embrace play and humor.

About the Speaker

Barry Kudrowitz is an assistant professor and director of product design at the University of Minnesota. He received his PhD from the Mechanical Engineering Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), studying humor, creativity, and idea generation. Kudrowitz co-designed a Nerf toy, an elevator simulator that is in operation at the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., and a ketchup-dispensing robot that was featured on the Martha Stewart Show. More information can be found at

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