Friday, May 22, 2009

Entrepreneurship and Improv: Two Peas in a Pod

Entrepreneurship is a contact sport and social entrepreneurship is extreme contact sport. The keyword here is contact - its as much about the other as it is about you. Different, for example, from heli-skiing where it is all about you. So last week, when I saw two amazing Improv plays (not stand-up comedy), I remembered that Improv training is great entrepreneurial skills training. Its the way to maneuver the "contact" aspect of the sport. You learn to "act" on your feet while gauging the audience; you learn to create laughter out of adversity to build camaraderie and most important you learn not to take yourself too seriously -for entrepreneurs are sustained by passion and social entrepreneurs by extreme passion (that burdens them with an un-endearing righteousness). Two snippets from the Improvised Shakespeare Company production I saw provide illustrations. At the start of the production the group leader asked for a play title - the answer from the audience was "King Lear Goes to Jail". In laying the foundation for the story, there was wordplay around "retire" - as in retire from job or retire for the night. The audience laughed so the players built on the theme to the point of introducing a new character called Webster (as in dictionary) and Webster was a huge hit. Another obvious aspect of Improv is that players switch roles frequently - in this case each player had multiple roles which were conveyed by getting into character with diction, body language, gestures- convincingly enough that the audience couldn't caricature the player into any one human trait (clever, conniving, fool etc).

Just for fun or just for work, this summer, do something for yourself: sign up for an Improv class and watch your entrepreneurial skills improve. That's because we learn by doing and Improv theatre provides a "safe" place to do.

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