Guest contributions:

04.22.13  Uncommon Leadership 

04.02.15  Switch and Shift  

05.13.15  Better Practice Team Performance

05.29.15  Better Practice Team Performance

07.08.15  Switch and Shift 

07.14.15  Better Practice Team Performance

10.05.15  Switch and Shift 

Stacey's Reading List...


"Tribe of Mentors" by Timothy Ferriss

"Shortcut" by John Pollack 

"Seeing What Others Don't" by Gary Klein

"Several Short Sentences About Writing" by Verlyn Klinkenborg

"The Birkman Method - Your Personality at Work" by Sharon Birkman Fink and Stephanie Capparell

"Creative Intelligence" by Bruce Nussbaum 

"Improv Wisdom" by Patricia Ryan Madson

"Training To Imagine" by Kat Koppett

"Quiet" by Susan Cain

"Where Good Ideas Come From" by Steven Johnson

"A Whole New Mind" by Daniel H. Pink

"Emotional Intelligence" by Daniel Goleman 

"Rework" by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson  

"The Leadership Pipeline" by Ram Charan, Stephen Drotter, James Noel  

"Life:  Selected Quotations" by Paulo Coelho 

"Deep Change" by Robert Quinn

"The Power of Full Engagement" by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz  

"The Way of the Shepherd" by Dr. Kevin Leman and William Pentak  

"Developing the Leader Within You" by John Maxwell  

"Mr. Peabody's Apples" by Madonna

"Orbiting the Giant Hairball" by Gordon MacKenzie




blog archive

7 Ways Improvisation Will Enhance Your Leadership

Original publication at Switch and Shift (April 02, 2015)


Nearly 10 years ago a pivotal book by author Daniel Pink (A Whole New Mind) suggested that forces in the world economy would shift society from left-brain thinking to right-brain thinking as the dominant thought pattern. In retrospect, that is precisely where we’ve landed today.  Think about the relevance of storytelling, our desire for product design, a resurgent demand for all things handcrafted, or how individuals are searching for greater meaning in their lives.  It’s all foreshadowed in this book.  Summed up nicely in two great sentences:  “Meaning is the new money.  The MFA is the new MBA.”   

No longer are the arts being undervalued; quite the opposite.  They are being sought out and leveraged.  The merging of art forms (right-brain) with business thinking (left-brain) is driving some unique development propositions.

Case in point – the merging of leadership competencies with Applied Improvisation (AI)*.  The art of improv capitalizes on the creative process to help “reframe” how leaders interpret - and therefore leverage - their personal style. 

The benefits of improv are far ranging, with the following merely a small sampling of how business leaders are embracing this platform of right-brain thinking. 

Improv helps you to: 

1.  Find your unique voice.  It’s the perfect place to practice being who you’re not, so you can figure out who you are.  You have permission to try on a plethora of personas in a safe setting.  I guarantee you will gravitate toward who you are, or who you’re meant to be.  Maybe your gift is sarcasm, or you radiate pure happiness  – find out where you add value and do more of that.  

2.  Create executive presence.  Being confident and comfortable on the business stage takes deliberate practice.  Executive presence is as much about finding your voice as it is about how you use it.   It’s about how you engage with others, how you invoke emotion, how you show authenticity.

3.  Share compelling stories.  Storytelling is a nuanced art.  It’s the packaged content of voice and executive presence.  And it is quite possibly the center of the human experience.  That is why organizations all over the world look to storytelling as the most promising tool for sustaining organizational culture.  

4. Increase divergent problem solving skills.  As the scene develops, and you have no idea what you will do next, you become much better at divergent problem solving (when there are multiple right answers).  Often times in business we get stuck looking for the one answer, when in fact there are several best answers. 

5.  Drive creativity and innovation.   Innovation does best in environments where ideas simply flow.  There are moments of absolute brilliance that you stumble upon while you’re busy making theater out of thin air.  Embrace serendipity.  

6.  Understand exposure to risk.  You basically have a free pass to mess up and nobody will care; it just doesn’t matter.  The pressure is removed if we don’t feel we can fail.  Error is endlessly diversified. 

7.  Maintain a sense of humor.  The world is fast paced, business is complex, and life is serious.  It can be overwhelming. Maintaining a sense of humor tends to put all things in perspective. 

It is often said that leadership is part science and part art.  It’s never really just about “what” you do, because it’s influenced greatly by “how” you do it.  Style really does matter.  Intentional effort applied to competencies (science) will undoubtedly serve a leader well.  The differentiation, though, is how the leader chooses to demonstrate his or her mastered skills (art).

I believe the improv platform skillfully merges art with business and creates an avenue for us to challenge how we think about things – and that begins a whole new dimension of thinking.  

* AI is the use of principles, tools, practices, skills and mindsets of improvisational theater in non-theatrical settings…that may result in personal development, team development, creativity and innovation, and/or meaningful change.  

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