How Improv Can Help Your Relationships (and Life)

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by Bob Kulhan for NBC News

Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 5.16.16 PMWhat if I told you I had the key to repairing dysfunctional or broken relationships and it is — wait for it — improv?

Yes, improv, an American art form known for its comedic value, can help reunite people who may have wounded each other with words. One of the biggest challenges we face, in politics and personal relationships, is talking to each other collaboratively and moving the conversation forward when we find ourselves in disagreement.

As a communication-based art form, improvisation offers a roadmap for successfully navigating emotionally charged conversations. It can even help to defuse conflict so that we can arrive at a productive solution that respects and represents all people. Read More

Adaptive Leadership Through Improvisation

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by Bob Kulhan for CEOWorldMagazine.com

Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 3.08.14 PMDespite the best-designed plans and the most thought-out strategies, business is sweat-drenched in unpredictability. Uncontrollable forces collide the moment that strategy meets execution. It is at this pivotal point that the skills needed for successful improvisation – reacting, adapting, and communicating – are paramount and must be employed.

Improv techniques are not confined to a single intersection, however. The skills of targeted thinking, rapid decision-making and adaptive problem solving that improvisation naturally enhances can effortlessly be used in countless day-to-day activities: cultivating creativity (in self and others), grappling with shifting demands, overpowering analysis paralysis, streamlining redundant meetings, managing conflict, handling crisis, encouraging nimbleness and flexibility, curating a collaborative culture, and igniting intrinsic motivation in others. Read More

The Art Of Improvisation And Business Communication

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Bob Kulhan And The Evolution Of Business Improv

Screen Shot 2017-03-16 at 1.09.12 PMBob Kulhan, author, actor, and CEO of Business Improv, as well as adjunct professor at Duke and Columbia business schools, joins Steve to talk about what business people can learn from practicing techniques borrowed from the world of improvisation. Bob has worked with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and has taught for many years at Second City, Chicago’s legendary comedy club and talent incubator. While he’s gone on to help countless businesses improve their communication cultures via corporate training programs staged by Business Improv, his insights and practices could arguably be used by just about anyone, whether to become more productive in business or for relationships overall.

Getting to “YES AND” – Bob Kulhan discusses business improv (GutwiZdom Episode-026)

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“YES AND is the cornerstone of improvisation. YES is unconditional acceptance of what has been said…AND is the bridge to how you react to it.” -Improv Bob (Bob Kulhan)

Screen Shot 2017-03-16 at 1.05.31 PMThis week’s show was recorded in front of a live studio audience at the WCBS studios in NYC! We had a packed house of family, friends, and business owners join us for this special episode. Bob Kulhan (“Improv Bob”) joins Deidre and JG to discuss using improvisation to improve communication and take on business challenges. Bob even walks us through a couple of interactive exercises, including getting the entire theater to shake their hands and feet like they were dancing the Hokey Pokey!

Bob Kulhan on Honing Your Improv Skills

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Screen Shot 2017-03-16 at 12.53.35 PMWe often think about improvisation in the context of comedy and it has nothing to do with the average workplace. But you’ve actually used improv tools more than you probably think. Bob Kulhan, improv pro in and out of the office, is here to talk about how to add these crucial skills to your toolkit.
About the Author(s)

Bob Kulhan is President, CEO, and Founder of Business Improv, an innovative consultancy that specializes in experiential learning and serves an international roster of blue-chip firms. Bob is an Adjunct Professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and Columbia Business School. A performer with over 20 years of stage credits, he trained with a long list of legendary talents, including Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. An actor and former core faculty member in Chicago’s famed Second City and a member of the resident company at the iO Theater, Kulhan is a Co-Founder of the critically acclaimed Baby Wants Candy improv troupe.

Entrepreneur Podcast Network Interview with Bob Kulhan

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Screen Shot 2017-02-23 at 9.06.28 AMListen to host Eric Dye & guest Bob Kulhan discuss the following:

  • What is the difference between improv comedy and business improv?
  • What is “Yes, And…” and how is it applicable to business?
  • As a fellow entrepreneur, how do you apply improv techniques to Business Improv?
  • How can improvisation help increase your Emotional Intelligence and help you achieve mindfulness?
  • What kind of corporate culture can you create using improv techniques?
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IMPROV NERD Podcast #225: Bob Kulhan

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Bob Kulhan is the author of the new book “Getting to Yes And: The Art of Business Improv.” He is an incredible improviser and teacher who was a core faculty member at The Second City Training Center in Chicago and co-founder of the uber musical group Baby Wants Candy. Jimmy talks to him about how he was influenced by improv teacher Martin DeMaat, the early years of musical improv, and how he fell into teaching improv for business.

Bob Kulhan: Is Improvisation the most important business skill?

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Screen Shot 2017-02-07 at 12.30.43 PMJoined in studio today by Bob Kulhan, founder and CEO of Business Improv, and author of Getting to Yes And: The Art of Business Improv.Learn more about Bob Kulhan’s book here.

Discussion guide from today’s conversation with Bob Kulhan:
1. What is improv?
2. And how does improv integrate into our daily business practice?
3. “REACT, ADAPT, and COMMUNICATE.”
4. What is “YES AND” and how does it work?
5. What are the cognitive and social psychology behind this?
6. How does “YES AND” and improv help with creativity and innovation?
7. Improv is a skill. How do we learn and develop stronger improvisational skills?

How to increase employee engagement and productivity. w/Bob Kulhan.

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Screen Shot 2017-02-01 at 11.00.54 AMBob Kulhan, veteran improv performer, university professor, CEO, and consultant, shares insights from his book: Getting To Yes And: The Art of Business Improv. Bob shows how improv techniques such as the “Yes, and” approach, divergent and convergent thinking, and focusing on being present can translate into more productive meetings, swifter decisions, stronger collaboration, positive conflict resolution, mindfulness, and more.

Listen Better, Lead Better

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NO JOKE: TOOLS FROM IMPROV THEATER ARE A HIT IN THE OFFICE
BY BOB KULHAN (for Solve Magazine)

Screen Shot 2017-01-30 at 1.40.07 PM“The basic human desire is to be understood,” Martin de Maat of The Second City improvisational comedy theater always told his students. That’s equally true for people in business.

Unfortunately, most leaders aren’t very good listeners. We’re more comfortable giving answers. We may be driven by so much passion for the business that basic principles of communication are overridden. The unintended consequence is that people who work with us feel disrespected.

Having spent more than 17 years teaching executives how to improvise—to be present in the moment, react, adapt, and communicate—I can attest that there’s a tremendous value proposition to listening. Leaders who are good listeners foster intrinsic motivation. A culture of positive communication spreads throughout their business, and the best talent wants to work for them. Read More

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How to Get to Yes And In Business with Bob Kulhan

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Screen Shot 2017-01-26 at 12.29.56 PMToday’s episode is with Bob Kulhan who joined us in episode 55 to discuss the transformative power of improvisation in business and life. He’s back today to discuss his new book: Getting to “Yes And”: The Art of Business Improv.

For more than three years, he has dedicated incredible amounts of time and energy writing on Getting to “Yes And”: The Art of Business Improv (Stanford University Press).

Getting to “Yes And” is the definitive guide to business improv. Bob teaches readers to think on their feet and approach the most typical business challenges with fresh eyes and openness. He shows how improv techniques such as the “Yes, and” approach, divergent and convergent thinking, and focusing on being present can translate into more productive meetings, swifter decisions, stronger collaboration, positive conflict resolution, mindfulness, and more.

Getting To “Yes And” was created to help everyone improve their business performance and everyday life. As a prescriptive book, it moves past general philosophy and delves into the “how” improv techniques can be easily and thoughtfully applied to various real-world settings. Read More

bookheader

Myth One: Improvisation is Comedy

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Amidst the deluge of advice for businesspeople, there lies an overlooked tool, a key to thriving in today’s fast-paced, unpredictable environment: improvisation. In Getting to “Yes And” veteran improv performer, university professor, CEO, and consultant Bob Kulhan unpacks a form of mental agility with powers far beyond the entertainment value of comedy troupes.

The following is an excerpt from Getting to “Yes And” The Art of Business Improv

MYTH ONE: IMPROVISATION IS COMEDY

Improvisation is in fact not comedy. Nor is it simply an approach to acting. Those are two specific types of improvisation, unique to the context in which the improvisation is taking place. There are many more contexts for improvisation, though. Improvisation is a key element of busy emergency rooms; it takes place on NBA basketball courts; it’s a part of the skill set for every policeman cruising the streets—all contexts in which comedy is certainly not intended to be part of the picture. The context dictates the style of improvisation required. The improvisation an emergency room doctor uses in performing a lifesaving operation is unique to that situation, and the kind of improvisation a starting point guard employs in facing an unexpected defensive strategy only makes sense on the basketball court.

A fantastic example of high-level improvisation took place in 2011 when a team of highly trained U.S. Navy SEALs undertook Operation Neptune Spear—the deadly raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. This mission had been meticulously planned; the SEALs trained for it over months and several contingency plans were developed and put into place. Still, when one of the navy’s Black Hawk helicopters crashed within the compound, a very specific kind of improvisation was required if the mission was to succeed under shifting circumstances. In this case improvisation had everything to do with adapting to changes within a strategy to achieve real, tangible outcomes.

I certainly concede that the most common understanding of improvisation is as a form of comedy. Curb Your Enthusiasm, the aforementioned Whose Line Is It Anyway? and the films by Christopher Guest all showcase amazing comedic work that is based on improv. On a personal level I’ve been incredibly fortunate to spend an enormous part of my professional life on the great Chicago stages of The Second City, the Annoyance Theatre, and iO (where I was coached by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and performed alongside such notable folks as Jack McBrayer, Ike Barinholtz, Thomas Middleditch, Jordan Klepper, Jason Sudeikis, and Seth Meyers along with many other famous and less famous, equally brilliant comedic improvisers). In that context we were performing with the focused purpose of delivering comedy. The payoff we were after was audience laughter and a great show. Laughter is not the payoff a surgeon, a jazz musician, or a SEAL team is after, though, and it’s certainly not the payoff a businessperson is looking for either. If you’re in front of the board of directors after a dip in fourth-quarter sales and you get thrown a hardball question, the challenge is not to quickly come up with a way you can use your necktie as a comedic prop to make the board laugh (lest that necktie become a noose with which you strangle your career). Instead you must react and adapt to the circumstances and communicate in an engaging and inspiring way.

The takeaway here: improvisation as it applies to the business world is a specific type that works in the business context. The heart of this book is to explicitly demonstrate how the art of improvisation can be used as a serious means of getting serious results.

Excerpted from Getting to “Yes And” The Art of Business Improv (Stanford Business Books, 2017)


book (1)Available Now

The Art of Business Improv

Amidst the deluge of advice for businesspeople, there lies an overlooked tool, a key to thriving in today’s fast-paced, unpredictable environment: improvisation. In Getting to “Yes And” veteran improv performer, university professor, CEO, and consultant Bob Kulhan unpacks a form of mental agility with powers far beyond the entertainment value of comedy troupes.

Learn More

 

Learn the art of business improv with my new book “Getting to ‘Yes And'”!

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For more than three years, I’ve dedicated incredible amounts of time and energy writing on Getting to Yes And: The Art of Business Improv (Stanford University Press). Thank you for your inspiration in this journey! GTYA was a project based in passion and love, and after countless hours of hard work, I’m so excited to announce that the book is officially available today!

Getting to Yes And is the definitive guide to business improv. I teach readers to think on their feet and approach the most typical business challenges with fresh eyes and openness. I show how improv techniques such as the “Yes, and” approach, divergent and convergent thinking, and focusing on being present can translate into more productive meetings, swifter decisions, stronger collaboration, positive conflict resolution, mindfulness, and more.

Getting To Yes And was created to help everyone improve their business performance and everyday life. As a prescriptive book, it moves past general philosophy and delves into the “how” improv techniques can be easily and thoughtfully applied to various real-world settings. I am sure you have at least one friend or family member who would benefit from reading Getting To Yes And, so please spread the word by sharing the news.

Thank you very much for your support! Enjoy the reading!


book (1)Available Now

The Art of Business Improv

Amidst the deluge of advice for businesspeople, there lies an overlooked tool, a key to thriving in today’s fast-paced, unpredictable environment: improvisation. In Getting to “Yes And” veteran improv performer, university professor, CEO, and consultant Bob Kulhan unpacks a form of mental agility with powers far beyond the entertainment value of comedy troupes.

Learn More

Improvisational Leadership

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Bob Kulhan, President, CEO & Founder, Business Improv

Screen Shot 2017-01-24 at 2.32.53 PMAt first glance, “improvisational leadership” might seem to be contradiction in terms. Leaders are thoughtful, strategic people; improvisation is a comedic art form and a team sport in which no one person is greater than the ensemble. However, when you redirect the tenets of improvisation away from comedy and toward leadership, they help your team perform at its best—by postponing judgment, communicating and connecting, leveling status, and achieving mindfulness. Improv isn’t a replacement for strategic thinking; rather, it’s a tool to buttress and support thoughtfulness and strategy. And that crucial moment when planning and strategy collide with execution is where improvisation shines.

How can you use improvisation to facilitate leadership development, help create team culture, and support the individuals in those environments? There’s no single equation for creating a great leader; if there were, there would be many more great leaders out there. But the very essence of improvisation is awareness and adaptability, both of which play a critical role in leadership. A leader must be aware enough to recognize what there is to work with in a given team, and adaptable enough to shape circumstances toward a desired conclusion. A leader must constantly make sense of the changing pieces in a moving puzzle—precisely how an improviser performs—and an improvisational leader understands how to use both EQ and IQ.1 Read More

MILLENNIALS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN

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Why the tenets of improv are key to thriving in today’s changing workplace.

Screen Shot 2017-01-24 at 11.38.46 AMOnly two decades ago, most executives wore business suits to work almost every day. Then, as dot-com companies flourished, powerful corporate giants like Bill Gates tossed the tie and showed up to work in a dress shirt, blazer, and dress slacks. Now, in 2017, billionaire titans of industry casually wear hooded sweatshirts, T-shirts, and occasionally (gasp!) flip-flops to the office.

The evolution of workplace attire exists in concert with the ascension of millennials, who insist on a new type of corporate environment, different than their parents’ workplaces. Many of America’s future business leaders desire a casual work culture, in which fun features as a fundamental part of the nine-to-five, and corporate America is responding! Glance through any of the many lineups for “the best places to work”: Facebook, Twitter, SAS, and Google, (to name a few) are all successful, powerful, multibillion-dollar organizations, and they also each boast the reputation of being “fun” while thriving. The message: you can have fun and still be incredibly productive. Read More

Engage and Retain Employees With Improv

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Screen Shot 2017-01-24 at 10.51.51 AM“People don’t quit companies; they quit people.” This old saying is as true today as it was when a caveman first carved a crude caricature of it on the corporate cave wall. When you create an environment that treats people positively, you increase your odds of retaining great talent.

What’s the best way to create this environment? Improv—which is grounded in respectful communication, emotional intelligence, mindfulness, personal connection and a shared purpose—can play a critical role in creating a workplace that engages and retains great employees.

Here are five ways to create an improvisational workplace that will engage and retain employees. Read More

5 Business Improv Tips for Networking

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logo_networkingtimes_40h“I see there’s a mandatory networking event tonightblargh! I am so uncomfortable at those things. I usually just stand awkwardly, alone at the bar. I think I’ll skip it and catch up on the other ‘49 Shades of Grey.’”

For most, networking is a skill that requires a fair amount of honing before they get comfortable doing it, let alone good at it. Three of the biggest challenges for people getting comfortable with networking are:

  1. Not knowing how to enter a conversation that is already going on;
  2. Not knowing what to say to someone they’ve never met before;
  3. Not knowing how to (gracefully) leave a conversation that they are in.

I’ve attended a few hundred networking events over the last 17 years as a thought leader—whether because I’ve been “strongly encouraged” by my university and corporate bosses, or because I personally thought it would be a great opportunity to hobnob and improvise over cocktails with power players. I can attest that, like so much else in life, the secret here is practice. The more you practice, the more relaxed and confident you get with the overall act of networking.

Read More

Adapting an Improvisational Mindset

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by Patty Gaul

Achieve better business results by communicating differently.

logo_block-finWith the increasing discussion around innovation, and the need to do business differently, many organizations are turning their usual way of operating on its head.

Many are working to instill a culture where risks are welcome, making small changes in process that can lead to new solutions, and asking questions to spur new thinking. One method that can support these changes and which is gaining ground is that of using improvisation.

Bob Kulhan is—along with Chuck Crisafulli—author of the soon-to-be-released Getting to “Yes and”: The Art of Business Improv. Kulhan is president, CEO, and founder of Business Improv, which creates executive education programs for top business schools in the United States and abroad, as well as leadership development and experiential learning programs for corporations, including many Fortune 500 companies. Among the organizations that have pursued Business Improv are Google, the Ford Motor Company, the U.S. Naval Academy, the United Nations, and Hilton Hotels. Read More

An Improviser’s Guide to Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse

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The Zombie Apocalypse is upon us! The government has collapsed. Communication is down. Chaos is the new order. What do you do? Who do you team up with? How do you survive? On Sunday, October 23, the premier of Season 7 of The Walking Dead (TWD) will air. What follows is a memorandum on how to embrace change and thrive in the unexpected, told through the lens of an improviser.

Before we begin, let’s acknowledge that most of us already live in a world based in VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity), at least in one form or another. It is also important to remember that in times of Crisis, Risk, Stress and Uncertainty, we fall back on our most overlearned behaviors. They are part of our muscle memory, and we rely on them. Because of that, we must remember to deliberately develop and strengthen a skill set that we can fall back on in turbulent times. Improvisation will be key to surviving a zombie apocalypse. Read More

How Improv Can Help Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump Win the Debate

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Bob Kulhan is Founder and CEO of Business Improv and author of Getting to “Yes, And”: The Art of Business Improv”, out in January

They should apply the ‘yes, and…’ technique

If the primaries taught us anything, it’s that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton should fully embrace the tenets of improv heading into their first presidential debate Monday night. This is tricky because American politics are as pre-packaged as a can of pork and beans. But once we get past the over-rehearsed lines that presidential candidates regularly regurgitate, we’ll have a real opportunity to see them “go off script” with a reactive and adaptive style of communication known as improvisation.

This requires practice. Some of the improv we witness may be a cluster f*ck—over-reaction, back-peddling, exaggeration or over-extension. But we may also see them thrive by honestly reacting in the moment, taking advantage of unexpected opportunities, and letting their natural intelligence and personality rise to the surface.