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Yes, And to Improv and Business

Special Guest Blog By: Kelly Leonard, Executive Vice-President of The Second City

There is a story from the early days of The Second City – around 1961 – a Coca Cola executive sought out the newly celebrated improv artists of The Second City to get their creative minds working around a new slogan for their popular soft drink. Legend has it that The Second City troupe took a week to come back with their brand new idea: “Fuck Coke.”

The worlds of improvisational comedy and business were not so well aligned back in those days. But by the 1980’s – when I first started working at The Second City – the idea that the skills that make one an adept improviser could also be useful in the workplace was just beginning to take hold.

Today, we have a thriving corporate services division – Second City Works – that provides training and content for more than 300 clients each year – most of which are Fortune 1000 companies. And while we may be the biggest and most well known player in the improv/business world – many, many other companies are sprouting up who preach the gospel of “Yes, And” to those who are looking to be more collaborative, innovative and attuned to a marketplace where “feedback” is a given – whether business are asking for it or not.

We’ve been out promoting our book (“Yes, And: Lessons From The Second City) and over the course of the hundreds of radio, television and print interviews we’ve been lucky enough to amass, one common truth has emerged. A truth we actually didn’t name in the book we wrote it.

When individuals enter the workplace, they check their human-ness at the door.

The things that makes us human beings, such as: vulnerability, fallibility, the ability to trust, love, feel passion and look foolish – it’s anathema to the individual at work.


How did this come to be?

Wouldn’t an individual looking to succeed at their job want to bring their whole personal tool-kit to the task at hand? The breadth of our experiences; the ability to engage in deep and meaningful relationships; the resilience in the face of failures – all of these wonderful human traits are rarely embraced in the course of the working day.

Yes, And to Improv and Business The Home of Improv and Sketch Comedy in Australia

Except – most often – by those that are successful. And improvisation – in it’s methodologies and practices – speaks to getting the most out of individuals working in groups.

In short, Improvisation is yoga for your social skills.

We all understand the need to go to a gym to workout your muscles. How can we assume that all those other muscles – like listening, empathizing, and relating – will be maintained or improved if they aren’t put into practice.

That’s what improv does. It puts us into practice of tending to the so-called “Soft Skills.”

And that’s what businesses of all sizes are starting to understand. It’s why we were hired by Major League Baseball to work on their rookies program; it’s why we were brought to the Wharton School of Business to teach our 7 Elements of Improvisation; and it’s why advertising agencies routinely pay for their creatives to take classes at our Training Centers in Chicago, Toronto and Los Angeles.

Although it was ultimately rejected by our publisher, our book was originally titled “The Revolution Will Be Improvised.” Because… the revolution has started.