Getting to "Yes And"
The Art of Business Improv
Bob Kulhan with Chuck Crisafulli


Contents and Abstracts
Introduction: More than One Way to Hit a Piñata
chapter abstract

The Introduction defines improvisation and puts a cognitive frame around improv as an effective tool for strengthening business skills, while dispelling myths and misconceptions about improv. Myth one is that improv is just comedy; myth two, that improv is making stuff up as a means of last resort. The author debunks these myths by illustrating the use of improvisation in different contexts (including an interview with Navy SEAL Captain Jamie Sands, discussing the importance of training and preparation for exceptional improvisation) and establishing a simple definition of improv. The Introduction also creates a clear road map for the book: from personal development, to interpersonal application, to team application, to creating culture.

1 Thinking Outside of Thinking Outside of the Box
chapter abstract

This chapter explores how the ever-accelerating pace of change in technology has affected how we communicate and collaborate with each other in a global community. These free-flowing channels of communication have revealed a need to explore and celebrate diversity of perspective in the workplace. This chapter looks to define the barriers to creativity, collaboration, improvisation, and change. Further demonstrating how improv can be used in business, the author characterizes the skill set related to improvising well, and introduces the concepts of divergent thinking and convergent thinking. The chapter also serves as an introduction to the author, and uses a UCLA program about storytelling as a case study for the application of improv to the business environment.

2 Just Say "Yes, and . . ."
chapter abstract

The chapter defines the key improv principle of "Yes, and . . ." and introduces the language and philosophy of business improvisation. Beyond a brainstorming tool, "Yes, and" is a communication tool that links to mindfulness, empathy, and relationship building. The author also explores the concept of emotional intelligence in leadership and provides a step-by-step path for using improvisation as a way to develop EQ. The chapter provides exercises that challenge the reader to begin to embrace and practice the core concepts of improvisation inwardly, for personal growth, so that the reader can ultimately implement these techniques outwardly, in dyadic and small-group conversations.

3 I'm with the Brand
chapter abstract

This chapter introduces the concept of personal branding, especially as it relates to authenticity and awareness in real time. The author defines mindfulness as a key developmental goal, and buttresses the lessons and themes from the previous chapters by challenging the reader to take on a personal development "deep dive" through the application of improv techniques. The chapter explores the need to slow the brain down and focus mental energy on being present, in the moment. It dives into creating culture by exploring the "employer brand" as it relates to leading and designing environments in which workers feel valued and appreciated. The chapter offers practical exercises to help readers achieve a keen awareness of their mental and physical state, and to help them develop a clear vision of how their personal development can help them define and achieve their brand in the workplace.

4 Energy Independence
chapter abstract

This chapter directly expands on Chapter 3 by answering the "how" question, and paves the way to Chapter 5 by exploring the concept of energy manipulation. Specifically the author walks the reader through energy manipulation techniques that are first employed individually and in small-group settings. The chapter focuses on intrinsic motivation as a technique for personal drive and inspiring others. It also looks at how—through behavioral psychology studies like the chameleon effect—we influence others through our own actions. This type of influence carries over from in-person interactions to distance and virtual communication (highlighted here through reference to the work of voice-over artists). The chapter also emphasizes the importance of momentum in creative and collaborative endeavors.

5 Teaming Up
chapter abstract

The chapter dissects the dynamics of teams and demonstrates how improv can be used to make teams operate more effectively. The author first looks at how the concept of unconditional support directly translates into respectful communication and how "individual perspective" is not the same as "individual agenda." The chapter explores how the reader can play a significant part in a team, and investigates the concept of leveling status as it relates to divergent and convergent thinking. The author looks at the U.S. Navy's premier flight demonstration team, the Blue Angels, as a short case study on the benefits of leveling status to facilitate respectful communication. The author also looks at the role of failed leadership—specifically relating one of his own failures as a case study on poor leadership. He concludes with a look at how Gen Y and Millennials are reshaping corporate culture.

6 Must Be Something Ideate
chapter abstract

This chapter takes the reader through the process of leading successful collaboration sessions. Using the analogy of panning for gold, the author demonstrates how participants in a brainstorming session increase the probability of success by collecting as much material as possible. The chapter shows how to remove the most destructive cognitive blocks to creativity, collaboration, and change by creating a culture of acceptance. This "culture" is not only effective for collaboration; it's a means for eliminating bad meetings. Further, the chapter moves past divergent (creative) phases of ideation and delves into the necessary convergent (editing) phase. Arguing that influence comes not only from our energy, attitude, and language, the author looks at how nonverbal communication and body language affect others in a meeting. The book continues to underscore the importance of creating muscle memory through continued practice by looking at the "conscious competence" learning model.

7 Busted
chapter abstract

This chapter examines how bad teaming in the form of silos can negatively shape corporate culture. The author defines this problem explicitly through case studies (9/11 and the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security; the IDEO workplace; and how a hotel in Dubai busted silos) and analysis of current corporate trends, and then demonstrates how this common problem can be addressed; that is, how barriers to communication can be torn down through the application of improv techniques. The chapter also briefly examines how global trends in virtual communication—information sharing, crowd sourcing, social media—have become effective ways of removing silos both inside companies (employees) and outside organizations (customers). The author shows how vertical hierarchies within companies can create silos and then how leveling status and distributing leadership can remove silos within meetings. Additionally he shows how improv techniques are effective in managing conflict.

8 Take Me to Your Leadership
chapter abstract

The chapter analyzes traits of both great and horrible leaders, differentiates leaders from managers, and shows how through improv techniques leadership skills can be developed so that one has an understanding of how energy, attitude, behavior, and communication style affect others. By focusing on presence and mindfulness, this chapter reemphasizes improv's value as a means of outward expression and deep introspection. It delves into the Six Domains of Leadership framework and explores leadership traits that organizations value, as well as traits that derail leadership. The author highlights the actions of a dean in Duke Fuqua's executive education department as an instance of exemplary leadership in the context of failure. The improv phrase "Follow the Follower" is redefined as a way to manipulate status and establish cross-functional relationships within teams. The chapter also looks at how VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) relates to business and connects with leadership traits.

9 How to Eat an Elephant
chapter abstract

This chapter hits the "how" of applying improv techniques on a personal, interpersonal, and team level. The author shows how improv can be used to influence, inspire, and create intrinsic motivation in others, who will then put accountability practices in place around rules, principles, philosophy, and a shared language. He then shows how improv techniques can be applied to create corporate culture. This chapter highlights the importance of leading change through practice in revisiting Captain Jaime Sands and the U.S. Navy SEALs' team culture. The author looks at differences between "groupthink" and "group mind" and shows how learned helplessness and conformity pressure can be reverse-engineered to create cultures that explore possibility and potential. This chapter constructs a guide to designing innovative cultures and shows how to deal with different types of resistance encountered when leading change.

10 And Wait . . . There's More!
chapter abstract

This chapter makes the lessons of the book practicable in the reader's life by providing new exercises designed to aid in the transferability, sustainability, and accountability of leading change and creating culture. Takeaways and practical applications are made crystal clear.