Improv Techniques For Business – Bob Kulhan
Utilizing improv techniques for business can help improve creativity, collaboration, and innovation.
On today’s episode, we are here with Bob Kulhan. He’s an author, and he helps business thrive through the process of improv.
He also talks about the cornerstone of improv and how it lets you connect and engage with people, which results in positive relationships and positive outcomes. Remember, Improvisation is a great tool for business people to use for a variety of different means.
With Improv, you have to live in the moment and be present at a very high level to react, adapt, and communicate.
Improvisation helps everyone to understand that we all need to connect and communicate with each other.
The cornerstone of improv is “Yes, and…”
Using “Yes, and…” feels like a building collaborative forward movement technique that draws people into an inclusive environment.
Allow yourself the freedom to communicate without fear, to collaborate, and to postpone judgment at least for specific strategic periods of time.
Using “Yes, but…” or “No, but…” triggers negative emotions.
Saying “Yes, and…” engenders positive feelings in others and positive outcomes.
TRANSCRIPTION: IMPROV TECHNIQUES FOR BUSINESS – BOB KULHAN
Hey, Thriving Launchers, want to learn how to use improv techniques to make your life better, increase productivity, creativity at work and also, have better relationships?
Improv Techniques To Make Life Better
Trust me, improv can make your life better, and on today’s episode, that’s what we’re going to talk about.
Bob Kulhan, he helps businesses thrive with the use improv techniques, and he’s an author.
All right, Thriving Launchers, I promise this isn’t an improv interview. We’ve talked already.
Bob, are you ready to launch?
I am ready to launch.
You’ve got this new book out and what’s fascinating for me is that you’re bringing this idea of how we can use improv techniques in business and management. You even got some great testimonials from some very well-known authors on management.
I’m curious. What made you want to bring improv techniques over into the business world?
I have an undergrad degree in business. Appropriately enough, it’s a BS in business.
I was very successful as a young businessman and stepped away from it to start learning improvisation, and became a “Professional Improvisor” pretty early on. While I was going through it, I started supplementing my income by teaching corporate improv techniques and workshops to various organizations.
In doing so, at that time, in the middle-late 90’s, it was a pretty shallow field, pretty vacuous as a matter of fact but not a lot of strong links to business.
Improv Techniques For Business People
As part of my passion was the business in my early 20’s, and it became improvisation, I started making these very strong connections that an improvisation is inherently an excellent tool for business people to use for a variety of different means. That led me to the Duke University Fuqua School of Business and ultimately partnering with a lot of the world’s top behavioral psychologists and cognitive psychologists, and even behavioral economists.
Improvisation is a great tool for business people to use for a variety of different means.
Let’s talk about improv techniques and how it helps our lives.
I used to do improv performances. I used to be in an improv troupe for a couple of years. Something I love and I love to hear from you how you feel improv can help our lives.
Improv Techniques To Live In The Moment
As you know, improv takes place at the moment. You have to live in the moment, be present at a very high level merely to react, adapt, and communicate, which means that you’re connecting with people, and you’re engaging with people in this communication-based art form.
Right away, you are witnessing powerful elements of how improvisation fits into the day to day life. Let alone in business or any other field.
You have to be present. You have to be able to connect with people. You have to be able to engage people. You have to be adaptable, nimble, and flexible.
I love that, and in business, we need to have that.
What are some of the shifts that you’ve noticed in business and in the way people are cooperating when they have to collaborate in a business setting? And in an environment where you need to show up and dress a certain way, and you have specific protocols, or you got the nine to five or even longer schedules.
You’re working with a lot of people, you’ve got to improv a lot, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
I’m curious, how has improv techniques, in your experience helped people navigate the world of working together?
Connect With People With Improv Techniques
It’s helped because as a communication-based art form, we have to focus on each other and in improvisation, and that’s the same in business regardless of what field you’re in.
Unless you are operating in some cave somewhere, in which you don’t have to interact with anyone physically, otherwise, you have to make eye contact with people. You have to talk with people. You have to make sense of ambiguous data. You have to be able to turn somewhat challenging messages into sticky messages ultimately.
Break Down Communication Barriers With Improv Techniques
Regardless of what side of the industry you’ve think or we think we might be in. We still have to be able to talk with people and communicate with people.
Whether they’re fear or distance or lack of a common language, it helps everyone understand that we all need to connect with each other and communicate with each other, especially in this rapidly changing world in which we live right now.
I want to get into how we can do improv techniques.
There are a lot of different improv techniques and things like that. How do you recommend that we all start to apply improv to our daily lives?
Foundation of Improv Techniques
The cornerstone of improv is “Yes, and…”
That I think is one of the most commonly associated phrases with improvisation, and it’s a multi-tool technique that you can employ at any given time.
You can “Yes, and…“ yourself, for example, to solve a tricky problem or deal with a challenging client. You can use it to postpone judgment on an individual basis for communicating with people, accepting ideas, dealing with conflict as well as writing a proposal.
Improv Techniques – Using “Yes, And…“ Vs. “Yes, But…”
You can use “Yes, and…“ as an interpersonal skill to communicate with people, to build a joint problem-solving solution or collaborate. You can use it then as a team skill as well for collaboration and adapt to problem-solving.
Ultimately, “Yes, and… ” as a lifeline or scarlet thread could be a major part of a corporate culture in which we are separating “Yes, and…” from “Yes, but…” And that “But” eliminates everything said before, and inherently undermines or potentially undermines a relationship or message.
Collaborative Forward Movement Technique
“Yes, and…” feels like that building collaborative forward movement technique that draws people into an inclusive environment.
Yes, and I find this is something that’s powerful to say ‘Yes’ to life more.
It’s such a powerful practice to be a more open person to opportunities as well.
Being Spontaneous With Improv Techniques
In this chapter, he says “If you put a child in a backyard with a bunch of sticks and nothing else, you say “Go play,” the child’s going to do what with those sticks? Pick them up, make swords, throw them, and make baseball bats. They play endlessly.
You put an adult in the backyard with a bunch of sticks and nothing else, and you say “Just occupy your time.” What does the adult do? Typically, the adult starts picking up the sticks or arranging them in some orderly fashion.”
Improv Techniques Lets You Communicate Without Fear
We get trained overtime to be critical and not be collaborative, not be creative, not postpone judgment. And it’s so important to go back to some necessary skills that we’ve developed over time, and allow ourselves that freedom to communicate without fear, to collaborate, and to postpone judgment at least for specific strategic periods of time.
It was interesting how you’re talking about being creative, and then you said strategic, and I was like, “Wait! I was getting into this creative space just listening to you.”
Get Out Of The Linear Thinking With Improv Techniques
But what came up for me is the study that I read some time ago that talked about a child’s creativity when they’re one to three years old, and then how as they move on through the ages, it just dwindles dramatically. Even the neurons that are firing the brain related to creativity dwindle immensely.
I think it’d be interesting to take your work for example, and the work of improv or art, things where people have to get out of this linear thinking, and in seeing what that does to the brain.
I would put my money on it would change the brain. It would allow those synapses to be stimulated in different ways. It is because, over time, we get trained to behave differently.
Improv Techniques – Realize How We’re Becoming Critical
As children, we don’t have a whole lot of structure. Even before school or once we get into school, there is some structure. That starts that you have to sit in the right chair, dress the right way, use this type of language, and study these specific things. We start organizing our brain.
Over time, especially as we move into our jobs, and then ultimately, leadership positions, we get paid to be critical. We are looking to be critical almost as a default, and moving into that space very quickly.
Working The Brain Out With Improv Techniques
We need to work that part of our brain out like it’s a muscle and get it back in shape again because, like any other muscle, it’s atrophied.
When you work it out again, it might get a little sore. We might have to stretch out a few extra longer once we start working out. Once it gets in shape, it’s going to operate at a different level than others who do not work it out.
One thing I love about improv is that you get to step into these situations where you allow yourself to be embarrassed or go out on a complete limb.
Improv Techniques – Be Willing To Be Embarrassed
I remember performing in a “Yes, and –” situation, and my co-performers put me in some very awkward positions, but I had to keep saying “Yes” to it. That willingness to just be embarrassed at the moment, and to go with the flow, it stretches us to keep going out on a limb in our daily lives too when we step into those roles.
You play as you practice, and in that specific scenario, you’re talking about that safe environment that we’ve touched upon before.
You have a team, a group of people who have all agreed to the same philosophy and the same language. If it’s in a performance setting, it’s in a venue that allows for this type of stretch to take place.
With that postpone the judgment, comes an inhibition loosening or even shedding agent that you commit to each other, you commit to the process, you commit to the team, you commit to the language, the culture, the environment itself. And it allows yourself to come out of whatever inhibited state you’ve been in.
Improv Techniques – Have A Strategy
In business, of course, it’s a little trickier to put that into place, which is why Luis, as you mentioned before that, the word “Strategy” is essential. You have to create this strategic period or this block just like you would in performance or rehearsal if you are going down the theatrical or comedic road of improvisation.
You have to do it in business as well to say, “For this period, we need to shed our inhibitions. We need to push the boundaries a little bit. We need to take whatever fears or doubts or even embarrassment potentially that we might have, and put it to the side so that we can be truly innovative and creative, and exploratory.”
Before we go, what is one thing that the Thriving Launchers could go out and do right now to start applying some of what you’re talking about?
Use “Yes, and–” Use it with everyone. Use it with your significant others and with your children, especially instead of “Yes, but–” or “No, but–”
Improv Techniques – Avoid Negative Emotions
There is a huge trigger that goes off in the minds of the extreme majority of people around the world by the way. I’m not talking just about with English speaking individuals. It translates to many different languages and many global cultures but triggers negative emotions.
It might be something that cognitively we understand. It might be something that subconsciously we start getting that it rings to our heart or rings to our guts that we don’t like talking with people who are continually yes-butting us or it puts us into a space in which we are reactionary and emotional in a negative way.
You can immediately start replacing the word “But” with the word “And” and start “Yes, and…”-ing everyone. I would argue that almost anything you say “But” toward, you can replace and say “And.”
Engender Positive Relationships
Again, with everyone across the board can be used to engender these positive, inclusive, flowing types of not only moments but relationships. And so, I started that home with family, with spouses, significant others, and children. You can bridge that off to wait-staff, flight attendants who are having bad days and getting grief from everybody else, or your co-workers. You can use this with anyone, anywhere, any place, anytime, and engender positive feelings in others, as well as positive outcomes overall.
I would say just keep it simple and just literally start “Yes, and…-ing” yourself and others.
All right, Luis, next time I ask you to take out the garbage, instead of saying “No” you get to say “Yes, and…”
Yes, and you can do it. I’m kidding.
Thriving Launchers, that’s a great note to end the show. It’s been great having Bob here to talk about improv techniques and bringing improv to your relationships, to your home, to your business, and to your creativity.
I hope you got something Thriving Launchers, and until next time, keep thriving you all.