Harvard Business School Links Sarcasm With Success

by Derek Loosvelt | November 04, 2015

  • My Vault

Years ago, during a first-round on-campus interview with an investment bank, I was asked to tell a joke. Although I don't remember which joke I told, I remember receiving a slight laugh (I also remember receiving a second-round interview but not a third-round interview or a job offer). In any case, at the time, I merely assumed that my humor and personality were being tested; it never crossed my mind until coming across the results of this HBS study that, instead, perhaps my intelligence and creativity were being tested.

Harvard Business School researchers have apparently determined that sarcasm, especially when it has a sharp edge to it, represents the "highest form of intelligence." "The construction and interpretation of sarcasm lead to greater creativity because they activate abstract thinking," the study's authors write in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.
"Just blurting out an insult is pedestrian at best," information technology expert Vacheh Joakim told Psychology Today recently. "But a sarcastic jab that can masquerade as a compliment is much more enjoyable, and it also gives the person being sarcastic a sense of superiority."
That sense of superiority will bother some people, but it nonetheless has value. The Harvard paper concludes that those who use sarcasm face more conflict but that they should power through the annoyed looks because being involved in or recalling a sarcastic exchange sparks "enhanced creativity."
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Speaking of sparking creativity, the current New York Magazine cover story, Willie Nelson's Crusade to Stop Big Pot, is well worth four minutes and twenty-seconds of your time. In it, along with Willie's daily regimen ("… Nelson's intake is stratospheric. At any given moment, he will have multiple joints burning, along with an assortment of vapes and pipes, all of which he seems to puff simultaneously like one of those multi­armed Hindu gods, whiffing and wheezing through the fog as if trying to minimize his exposure to fresh air …"), you will learn about the hottest industry in America and about the players, including Willie, whose strands of legal weed will soon be as ubiquitous as Big Macs and Frappuccinos.

Legal marijuana is the fastest-growing industry in the United States, with 74 percent growth in 2014, according to a recent study by the ArcView Group, a Silicon Valley investment research firm. Last year, it generated $2.7 billion in sales and delivered more than $200 million in tax revenue to the legal states. In Colorado alone, the $88 million raised from pot was more than double that from alcohol …
The two largest marijuana companies for now—Privateer Holdings, the Bob Marley label, and Diego Pellicer, the would-be Starbucks—have both embarked on long-term strategies to develop massive growing operations, while also maintaining a short-term caution in light of the federal ban. At Diego Pellicer, this has meant a plunge into, of all things, real estate. As the company’s CEO, Ron Throgmartin, explained this, Diego Pellicer’s core business at the moment is to acquire retail space and then lease it to local pot companies.

Willie's brand, called Willie's Reserve, aims to be something like the local coffee shop of the legal weed market. It's set up as a national holding company and its products will be grown by small farmers who agree "to abide by a host of standards." As for what those standards are, they're not publicly available just yet, but Willie wants "to keep it clean, keep his growers in business, keep Big Pot off his turf [and] protect the plant he smokes every day from the corporate influence he's been fighting all his life."

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A fight a lot of us are fighting on a daily basis is only getting more difficult. That's the fight to hold down increasingly demanding jobs while raising children. The latest working-parents-can't-keep-up-and-are-stressed-out-beyond-belief article from the New York Times, which cites a new Pew Research Center study, quotes a few sets of parents who are trying to fight this good fight. There are some interesting takeaways (no sarcasm intended). One is that men are delusional, in that they think they're helping out at home but really aren't doing as much laundry and mopping as they think. Or so say their wives.

Still, women do much more, especially when it comes to the tasks of raising a child, like managing their schedules and taking care of them when they are sick, according to Pew. Fathers and mothers are much more likely to equally share in doing household chores, disciplining children and playing with them.
There is a gender divide in parents’ perceptions of how much responsibility they take on, Pew found. Fifty-six percent of fathers say they share equally, while only 46 percent of mothers agree.

Another interesting takeaway is that college educated workers are more stressed out than those without college degrees (which perhaps isn't all that surprising, since job stress and job salary typically are positively correlated; that is, you often get paid based upon how much stress you deal with/how many responsibilities you have, and it seems likely that the more qualifications, including degrees, a job requires, the more demanding and thus stressful it is).

Of parents with college degrees, 65 percent said they found it difficult to balance job and family; 49 percent of nongraduates said the same. Pew did not investigate why, but one reason might be that professional workers are more likely than hourly workers to be expected to work even after they leave the office. However, they also tend to have more flexibility during the day.

As for solutions, according to the families quoted in the piece, the way to reduce the stress of work and family obligations is this (here I am tempted to jokingly insert something about Willie's Reserve but will restrain myself): more paid leave, particularly for those who aren't helping out as much as they think.

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Read More:
The Problem with Netflix’s Parental Leave Policy
Is the Constant Connection to Our Jobs Melting Our Children’s Minds?
Medical Marijuana Is Coming to NYC—and Needs Finance, Legal, and Health Care Talent

Filed Under: Interviewing | Job Search | Technology | Workplace Issues

Tags: harvard business school | medical marijuana | parental leave | willie nelson | work-life balance

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