Improv is having a moment. What was once considered a slacker art form for college students and actors is now taught to businesses worldwide as leaders discover the transformational power of active listening, agreement, and play that improv offers its practitioners.
One of the art form’s greatest practitioners and instructors is John Sweeney, owner and director of the oldest comedy club in the U.S., the Brave New Workshop in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We’re happy to have him as our closing keynote speaker at this year’s VenueConnect on Monday, July 25, 4:15 p.m.
Sweeney believes that innovation is always a reflection of individuals reacting from a mindset of fear than one of discovery. His keynote will focus on how to apply improv-based behaviors and skills to positively influence innovation in the workplace.
We recently asked Sweeney a few questions about discovery, innovation, and improv.
What is the Mindset of Discovery?
John Sweeney: It is a state of being in which you are able to gather information and instinctual data very fast, reduce the level of initial judgment, and increase your ability to be nimble and action biased. It is when we are behaving as our most innovative selves and working at our most our most innovatively productive level.
Why do so many companies have difficulty in creating a culture of innovation?
JS: Culture is the sum of the behaviors of the many individuals who make up the team. Their individual behaviors are hard to metric, hard to mandate, and sometimes even hard to encourage. That is why I see so many companies focusing on the tools they can build and buy (like software and other technology) and the specific skills they can teach (like design thinking or brainstorming techniques). They miss the mark on the behavior part of innovation and allow it to fall off the radar.
What is the biggest challenge business professionals struggle with when learning improv concepts and how do you overcome the challenge?
JS: It is a tie—reducing judgment and fear of failure. Our recommendation is that they find ways to practice both in a safe environment that allows them to slowly build up the behaviors needed for innovation at work
How has a career in improv and public service changed you over the years?
JS: I try to live a life that embraces “Yes And.” This helped me on stage and continues to help as I grow our business and give back as much as I can. Our family and our company continue to ask two questions, “What can we build and who can we help?” As an improviser, I know that I have everything I need at all times to deliver innovation. That drives me to live a life of service.