University of Arkansas

Walton College

The Sam M. Walton College of Business

And MORE Improv Advice in Translation

A group of students performing an improv skit in front of their peers.
December 21, 2022  |  By Stacey Mason

Share this via:

I have found that most advice is worthy of thorough examination.  Often advice pertaining to one discipline – with just a bit of translation – has meaning in other disciplines.  This translation process allows for more perspective and greater insight.   

As a case in point: the more I study improvisation, the more parallels I see to the business world. And while I’ve written about this practice in the past, I continue to discover more connections. So what follows is even MORE improv advice in translation.  

Improv advice: 
Don’t take any shortcuts on energy or polish.  You may have done the show a thousand times, but some people are seeing it for the first time.  
Business advice: 
It’s showtime every time.    

 

Improv advice: 
Play with improvisors of various experience levels. New folks will remind you to make clear offers. Veterans will keep you in your emotions. 
Business advice: 
Strive for connectivity at every level within your organization. New hires will look to you for help navigating company culture and expectations. Tenured leaders will help you to understand the business from various perspectives.   
 

Improv advice: 
Cast cohesion takes time. No matter how funny you or your troupe-mates are, you need to be patient while the culture comes together.   
Business advice: 
Team cohesion takes time. No matter how brilliant everyone is, learning how to work seamlessly and to succeed collectively takes time and patience.   
 

Improv advice:   
Conflict in a scene can take many effective forms. One versus one. One versus many. Everyone on stage against the world. 
Business advice: 
Healthy conflict can serve as a catalyst to strengthen teams and relationships.   
 

Improv advice:   
Keep an improv journal. Write down ideas for shows. Write down good feedback you’ve been given. Write down good feedback you’ve overheard. 
Business advice: 
Keep a journal and spend time reflecting. Write down the lessons you’ve learned along the way.   
 

Improv advice: 
See as much improv as you can. Constantly remind yourself that your style is one of many and you exist as part of a huge, diverse art form. 
Business advice: 
There are a lot of ways to run a business.  There are a lot of ways to lead.  Your style can be unapologetically all you.    
 

Improv advice: 
Side-coaching from your director or troupe-mates doesn’t mean you’re bad at improv.  It means that you’re good enough for them to think you can get even better.   
Business advice: 
Hard to hear feedback from a peer or supervisor can be challenging. It can also be exactly what you needed to know in order to become a better version of yourself.    
 

Improv advice: 
Find out how to perform to a cold crowd without compromising your format. Find out how to perform to a rowdy crowd without compromise too. 
Business advice: 
Adjusting your style for a given situation is not the same thing as compromising who you are fundamentally. Flexing is good, selling out is not good.   
 

Improv advice: 
Different formats will make you improvise differently, and so will different troupe-mates, different directors and even different performing stages. One of the goals as an improvisor is to understand how different configurations of people, places and things impact you as an artist. 
Business advice: 
Different is different.  And what’s different needs to be taken into consideration.   
 

Improv advice: 
There is no amount of funny you can be that justifies being a bully, being unprofessional or being arrogant. In improvisation, trust is foundational to execution. If you make yourself a burden to work with through your behavior, you simply cannot do good work. 
Business advice: 
Trust and moral character matter. Full stop.   
 

Improv advice: 
The moment you think you are done learning and refining your improvisational skills, you are. 
Business advice: 
The moment you think you are done learning and refining your leadership skills, you are. 
 

Improv advice: 
The world is big enough for everyone’s comedy. 
Business advice: 
The world is big enough for everyone’s contribution.   

Here’s the funny thing I’ve noticed: the more parallels I see to other areas of my life, the more I want to study improv.  And I can’t wait to see what I keep learning.   
 
Ancora Imparo… (Still, I am learning) 

Post Author:

Matt WallerFounder of The Improv Lab, Stacey Mason has immersed herself in the field of Applied Improvisation for the last decade after co-founding several comedy improv troupes and training with various actor-teams including Second City in Chicago. Her corporate background includes nearly 20 years at Walmart in Logistics, Global Supply Chain and Merchandising/Replenishment before shifting towards culture coaching, stewarding the Walton Institute, Walmart’s flagship culture program. She partners with Walton College Executive Education on innovation programs and other initiatives