Business Improv: A Tool for Fun and Profit

Last Updated Jun 5, 2008 11:14 PM EDT

Improv -- perhaps best known as the art of quipping on your feet -- might not seem to have much place in business. A staple of music, theatre and comedy, it's also becoming a tool for business thinking (comedy-types dominate the top of the search rankings on business improv: here's a training firm staffed by Second City players, one of a number of improv business 'schools'). There's also the 2003 book "Improv Yourself," by Joseph Keefe, a former Second City Theatre member who started an improv consultancy for businesspeople.)

The latest manifesto on business self-improvment comes from Randy Sabourin, who drew on his background in jazz to found Biz Improv, aiming to help businesspeople react more effectively under pressure. He's published Business Improvisation: the Diving Catch of the Corporate World on ChangeThis. He's done a nice job of showing why improv in business is a serious skill, one that has little to do with cracking jokes, and also one that can be developed.

As a wanna-be actor in college, I had great fun with improv techniques. I am keen on the idea of using it to spur quick, creative thinking in business environments. Who doesn't want to think fast on their feet, especially when under pressure?

This little manifesto is a useful introduction to the idea and why it makes sense.

  • Michael Fitzgerald

    Michael Fitzgerald writes about innovation and other big ideas in business for publications like the New York Times, The Economist, Fast Company, Inc. and CIO. He’s worked as a writer or editor at Red Herring, ZDNet, TechTV and Computerworld, and has received numerous awards as a writer and editor. Most recently, his piece on the hacker collective the l0pht won the 2008 award for best trade piece from the American Society of Journalists and Authors. He was also a 2007 Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellow in Science and Religion.