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Kelly Leonard – Improvisation & Human Behaviour (#87)

How improvisation can improve your business, relationships and life!

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Kelly Leonard - Improvisation & Human Behaviour (#87) | My Home Vitality

Introduction to guest:

Kelly is the Executive Director of Learning and Applied Improvisation at the infamous Second City Works.

His book, “Yes, And,” was published to critical acclaim by HarperCollins and he has spoken at many illustrious organisations, including Coca-Cola. Microsoft and Twitter.

For over twenty years, he oversaw Second City’s live theatrical divisions working with such talent as Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, and Steve Carell just to name a few.

He has also guest lectured at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and hosts the popular podcast “Getting to Yes, And”.

For tips on how to improvise, interact and innovate, enjoy the full podcast below, and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more!

More from Kelly:

Twitter: @KLsecondcity

Podcast: Getting to Yes, And

Key quotes and takeaways from the show:

“Improvisation is a practice of relentless adaptation. It’s also about human flourishing and transcendence.”

“Improv is human being practice.”

The ancient Greek word for ‘school’, ‘scholē’, actually means ‘leisure’.

Improv is not spontaneity. It is not just “making it up”. It is a practice that takes practice over a long time.

We learn through play and laughing together. The part of the brain that processes an insight is the same part of the brain that processes a laugh.

The Humour Cliff: We laugh less as we enter school, then even less as we enter our business lives, but when we retire the laughter returns.

People live longer when happy, laughing and optimistic.

“When your only job is to make everyone around you look better, and do better, you’re in your sweet spot.”

Your job as a leader is to make your people better.

“Where are you stuck and how can I help you get unstuck?”

“Play the scene you’re in, not the scene you WANT to be in.”

“You can’t have innovation without creativity but you can have creativity without innovation.” Innovation requires a huge amount of discipline. Second City uses improv (creativity) to develop scripted content (innovation).

“It’s a BOTH AND.” There is good and bad in everything, all the time, simultaneously.

See all obstacles as gifts.

Gratitude gives you a much greater chance of collaboration.

“Give me the tough notes. I want to be a better human.” View honest feedback as a gift from others. They are trying to help you get better. Receive feedback with gratitude.

Replace blame with curiosity.

Radical candor only works if the person knows you love them.

One of the most powerful drivers of humanity is love.

The future of work is the transformation of each person’s life at work. It’s the gift that you give.

“Improv is a way you can practice being yourself in relation to other people.”

We have many identities depending on the context we are in.

If a martian came down and met one human being, he’d understand 98 percent of humanity. That’s how much we share.

Stay curious.

Possible responses:
Yes, But
Yes, And
Thank you, Because

Yes, And. (affirm and contribute in order to explore and heighten). “Yes, And” is about creativity. It is where ideas get played with. Work from abundance. To get to the best ideas, you have to generate as many ideas as possible, no matter how crazy. Effective brainstorming is not to get a great idea, it is to get a lot of ideas, then choose the idea that works best in that moment.

“You need to bring a brick, not a cathedral, to creative conversations.”

Yes, But. (“Yes, But” is “no” with a bow tie).

Follow the follower. There needs to be leadership at every level.

“It’s not a superpower unless it can be used for evil.”

If you get said no to enough, in a business context, you’re not going to bring any more ideas.

A team is only as good as its ability to COMPENSATE for its weakest member.

3 schools of improv:
Viola Spolin – Social Work
Kieth Johnstone – Theatrical
Augusto Boal – Social Justice

Improvisation is yoga for your social skills. Improvisation is loud noisy group mindfulness. Improvisation is the practice of being unpracticed, which is how we walk through the world.

If you’re in a bad mood and want to get out of it, do something nice for someone else.

Thank you, Because. (create gratitude in both you and them, then find something that is a point of agreement). This builds rapport. That allows you to stay in the conversation.

“Kill him with kindness. Relentless kindness.”

Habit practice – Change your password to something positive (a positive affirmation).

There is power in words (positive and negative). The more conviction you have with them, the more believable they become (for both you and others).

Assume positive intent until you are shown otherwise.

We never do anything alone.

Question everything. “As human beings, we are more likely to get it wrong than to get it right.”

Be careful of the charismatic person making large claims. “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” (ECREE).

Don’t focus on winning.

Most people are good.

Everything is people.

Question of the day:

“What are two or three biggest-bang-for-you-buck techniques that people can use to be better at improvisation or comedy?”

Links to podcast sites:

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Listen on iTunes
Listen on Spotify
Listen on Stitcher
Listen on Overcast

The full podcast:

Related episode:

Here are some more podcast on human behaviour, communication and creativity

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Show notes:

  • 00:00:00 – Coming up.
  • 00:00:39 – Where to find more and
  • 00:01:13 – An introduction to Kelly.
  • 00:02:35 – Hello!
  • 00:03:15 – What is improv?
  • 00:07:13 – Is improv play?
  • 00:08:46 – How to learn & live longer.
  • 00:10:49 – Unlearning habits that stifle creativity.
  • 00:13:48 – How open are Universities to alternative schooling?
  • 00:15:01 – Does creativity impact upon discipline?
  • 00:17:35 – The Yin & Yang of everything.
  • 00:19:18 – The importance of gratitude.
  • 00:22:36 – Improv in business.
  • 00:25:50 – The good and bad of Artificial Intelligence.
  • 00:29:43 – Can anyone be funny?
  • 00:31:05 – What improv teaches you.
  • 00:33:46 – How to be funny without upsetting people.
  • 00:36:47 – Adapting to your audience.
  • 00:40:03 – Practices to improve your improvisation.
  • 00:49:36 – The three schools of improvisation.
  • 00:50:30 – Improvisation for introverts.
  • 00:52:49 – Behavioural science & improvisation.
  • 01:00:25 – How to talk to people you disagree with.
  • 01:07:11 – The power of positive self talk.
  • 01:13:58 – Something that has blown Kelly’s mind.
  • 01:16:34 – The power of kindness.
  • 01:18:08 – Advice to a younger self.
  • 01:20:11 – The best documentary on success.
  • 01:21:00 – Something Kelly believes that most people disagree with.
  • 01:21:15 – A final message from Kelly.
  • 01:23:14 – Where to find more and
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