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Improvisational Comedy and Product Design Ideation Making Non-Obvious Connections between Seemingly Unrelated Things

Barry Kudrowitz , David Wallace

It is believed that both wit and product design innovation involve making non-obvious connections between seemingly unrelated things. In a study involving 84 participants taking a cartoon caption test and a nominal product brainstorming test, we found that improvisational comedians on average produced 20% more product ideas and 25% more creative product ideas than professional product designers. Individual quantity of product ideas was highly correlated (r2=.82) with that individual?s product creativity scores, and individual quantity of cartoon captions was highly correlated (r2=.64) with that individual?s caption humor scores. It was also found that the few individuals that were highly fluent in prolific creative product ideation were also highly fluent in prolific humorous cartoon caption production. The majority of these prolific generators had improvisational comedy training. Many of the games used in introductory improvisation comedy classes are designed to train people in making prolific non-obvious connections between seemingly unrelated things. A workshop was developed composed of these association-based games with the goal of helping designers be more prolific, and thus creative, idea generators. A group of 11 subjects who participated in this workshop increased their idea output on average by 37% in a subsequent product brainstorming session.


humor, Creativity, idea generation, improvisation, design