Monday, July 16, 2012

The Humor in Business Part 2: Can Improv Teach Us About Business?

Before you dive in, be sure to check out The Humor in Business Part 1: How Does Improv Relate to Startups?

Well gang, it seems as if class is in session once again.  In case you were absent or missed out on Part 1 of The Humor in Business, let me introduce myself.  My name is Bobby Miller Jr. and I’ll be your professor today.  I’m an actor and writer, but most notably, I’m an improviser. I’m also still a student, generally because I’ve been performing improv for just a year and a half, but also because in improv (and life), no matter how long you’ve been doing, it you’re always learning.  And that also sounds a lot like entrepreneurship, doesn’t it? 

When my troupe LSR rehearses, we all pool together the knowledge we’ve accumulated (from podcasts, improv books, etc.) since our last get-together and start brainstorming. This is valuable improv philosophy that can easily be applied to the startup world. 
So entrepreneurs; without further ado (and self-promotion), I’d like to you to take your seats and put your thinking caps on because it’s “time to get learned!”

Practice hyper acceptance
This is a step up from the basic “yes and…” concept we discussed in Part 1. The goal of hyper acceptance in improv is to support your partner in what they are saying and build on it by adding something. The way it is made “hyper” is by overly accepting their idea to the point that it becomes your own. Your partner then does the same with what you have said. In addition, never use the word “but”. The word “but” is nonexistent in hyper acceptance.

When applied to the business and startup spheres, hyper acceptance becomes a way of turning a good idea into a fantastic idea. Ignore the part of your brain that thinks of limits and impossibilities. Embracing hyper acceptance will allow you to explore a realm of truly unique thinking that you may have never encountered before.

Be in the moment and stay out of your head
During an improv scene, it is critical to stay engaged in what is happening only on stage.  When on the sideline, it’s important to listen and pay serious attention. Much like improv, the business world moves at an extremely fast pace.  You may be an entrepreneur working on a startup idea—someone else probably has the same idea.  If you don’t pay attention and do your research, they could easily pass you. That being said...

Fail big 
There is no greater learning experience better than failure. In improv, performers often think of something is hilarious...until it is said aloud. Oftentimes, jokes can create a room full of crickets. This is normally followed by the improviser putting their head down and trying to find a way to exit the stage. If it’s a bad joke, let the audience know you meant it to be a bad joke (even if you didn’t). Who knows?  Maybe admitting your joke could come across hilarious to your audience.  Admit when you’re wrong and celebrate when you’re not

One of the most famous examples of “successful failure” comes from Clorox.  It took the company 408 different formulas to finally find one that works. Today, we know this product as super-successful Formula 409 cleaning solution. There will always be those few people who know of your failures, but everyone will remember your successes as well.

 Find the game 
In the course of a scene, performers are only able to communicate within that particular scene. They cannot pause it and have a side conversation to discuss what is funny. That is what “game theory” is for. Game theory in a scene can be defined as the way both performers are able to nonverbally communicate what the funny thing is so they can then play off of it.

Luckily in entrepreneurship, game theory doesn’t have to be nonverbal. Game theory in business is finding what the successful or unique idea is and building on that. Twitter, for example, has a game theory is that it can monitor trends and serve as a platform for people to share opinions quickly with the world.  What’s your game theory?

Admit it then justify it with a philosophy 
This strategy goes along with failing big.  Admitting and then justifying with philosophy in a scene means that you have mean what you say and know why you said it. If you don’t know why you said it, find a reason why, make something up or better yet...improvise! Making an excuse is just avoiding reality.

This is a great way to learn about who you are as a person.  Constantly late to work? You could blame it on oversleeping or that there was terrible traffic.  Or you could look inward and discover that you aren’t passionate about your job and dread going to work. If so, it’s time to quit and do something you are more passionate about.

Well, class that’s all for this lecture!  I hope you stayed awake and focused on each lesson. If not, please wipe the drool off of your desk, catch up on what you missed and start applying it to your business life! These ideals have been around a while and a lot of them are just pure common sense. After all, in the end, we’re all just making it up as we go along.

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