For some big-name business leaders, it wasn't a leadership seminar, business book, or meticulous morning routine that had the most impact on their qu
For some big-name business leaders, it wasn’t a leadership seminar, business book, or meticulous morning routine that had the most impact on their qualities as CEOs.
Rather, it was instead their past experiences in the world of improv comedy that helped them bring life to some of the most successful companies and world-changing businesses of today.
Take former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, for example. Before he was Twitter’s chief executive officer from 2010 to 2015, Costolo was a professional comedian. Prior to board meetings, Costolo had improvisational comedy performances, as part of the well-known comedy troupe Second City. Second City was home to alumni like Tina Fey and Stephen Colbert, and even gave Costolo the opportunity to briefly work with Steve Carell.
Michael Dubin, the CEO of Dollar Shave Club, has also had prior experience studying improv comedy inform and guide his position as a company leader.
The Dollar Shave Club was founded from Dubin’s apartment in 2012, after he took night classes with improve theater Upright Citizens Brigade. Four years later, Dubin would go on to sell the Club for a whopping $1 billion to consumer goods company Unilever.
Could it really be true that you can laugh your way to success? Here’s what Costolo and Dubin learned from their time with improv comedy.
1. How to think with rapid speed.
The process of improv asks that you think on your feet in order to create a scene and make it funny. “Your brain has to work really quickly to keep up with your scene partners as you develop information,” Dubin notes. In high-pressure situations where you need answers and you need them fast, look to improv, which helps you think and react quickly.
2. How to be present.
“One of the things that you’re always trying to make sure you really pay attention to in improv is being in the moment and listening,” explains Costolo. “When I was first learning the trade,” he says, “one of the things that folks at Second City used to always say was ‘Be in this moment.’ That’s one of the things I tell my new managers.”
3. How to effectively synthesize information.
There’s a lot happening in any improv scene. A performer has to absorb all the details from different people, in order to develop a story that works. This is much like life as a CEO, says Dubin. With improv comedy and CEO leadership alike, “You are ingesting bits and pieces of different information and synthesizing it into a strategy or an effort of some kind.”
Using improv comedy as a way to improve your professional life is not an idea to laugh at–consider it!
Published on: Jan 27, 2020
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