The World’s Second Funniest Joke
In 2001, Richard Wiseman led an international humor experiment to find the world’s funniest joke. He had internet users submit and rate 40,000 jokes. Of these, the second-funniest joke was the following (the world’s funniest joke is here.)
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are camping. They pitch their tent under the stars and go to sleep. Sometime in the middle of the night, Holmes wakes Watson up.
Holmes: “Watson, look up at the stars, and tell me what you deduce.”
Watson: “I see millions of stars and even if a few of those have planets, it’s quite likely there are some planets like earth, and if there are a few planets like earth out there, there might also be life. What does it tell you, Holmes?”
Holmes: “Watson, you idiot, somebody has stolen our tent!”
Fixation: an Impediment to Successful Problem Solving
The joke suggests the psychological concept of fixation. Fixation occurs when you view a problem from only one perspective preventing you from seeing the obvious or breaking from a routine way of thinking.
To change an entrenched pattern of thinking, try to shift your perspective—literally or metaphorically. A shift in perspective can change your physical position and thus alter your point of view in a literal and sensory way, or it may change the way you think about or define the problem at hand.
The fields of arts and the sciences are replete with examples of how a different frame of mind can offer creative insight. As I cited in my article on the start of Picasso’s Blue Period, many artistic styles develop when artists feel the need to change the way their art represents the world. The new style therefore presents an alternative perspective.
Idea for Impact: Get Creative by Shifting Your Perspective
Shifts in perspective are fundamental to many facets of the creative process. As I stated in my previous article on reframing, the solution to many difficult problems can be found merely by defining or formulating them in a new, more productive way.
If you’re stuck on a problem, stand back and apply a different lens to break away from your current perspective.
Alternatively, simply take time away from your problem. A relaxation of effort may help you see something that is obvious after the break, but was previously overlooked or taken for granted.