How To Succeed In Business: Improvise!

Posted on 05 January 2013

In business, you shouldn’t wait until your product or service is perfect before launching it – you just have get something out there, listen to the feedback, and adjust as you go.

That’s exactly what improvisation performers do: they make a choice, step boldly into a scene without knowing what will happen, pay careful attention to the response, and change direction accordingly as the scene progresses.

So in business and in improv, the process looks like this:

  • Take action.
  • Get feedback.
  • Adjust.
  • Take the next step.
  • Get feedback.
  • Adjust.
  • Take the next step.
  • And so on…

Or as David Kelley, the founder of the design and innovation consulting firm IDEO, says in this one-minute video: “Stop talking and start making!”.

And what kind of skills do business leaders need in order to do that confidently, so their teams and organisations thrive in an unpredictable world? In a recent HBR article, “Facing the Unimaginable, and Leading Anyway”, Sarah Green said that when training leaders, “you have to train so that what you’re really practicing is staying calm, thinking quickly, and problem-solving.” Again, that’s exactly what improv performers do.

How do I know? Because I’m an improv performer with People’s Liberation Improv in Hong Kong.

So here’s my shameless plug

I lead workshops for companies, teaching people how to apply the principles and techniques of improvisation so they become better at leadership, teamwork, communication, selling, trust, creativity, innovation, confidence, experimenting, solving problems, taking intelligent risks, embracing failure and ambiguity… Oh, and having fun too!

On Saturday  February 23 in Hong Kong, I’ll be leading an improv class for entrepreneurs and business leaders/managers: “Improv for the Business World”. It’s part of the programme of classes presented by General Assembly, “a global network of campuses for individuals seeking opportunity and education in technology, business, and design”.

Please contact me if you’d like me to run something similar for your organisation.

What do YOU think? Can you share some examples of how you’ve applied the principles of improv to business? What were the results?

A related blog post: “Thriving in Uncertainty – The Promise of Improv”

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