10 Chapters
Medium 9781605095851

The Fourth Secret of Improvisation Oops to Eureka!

Hough, Karen Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Your last troupe member, who has not been involved up to this point, comes to the front of the stage and translates the whole song into sign language. The audience already is roaring, but this new addition really makes them scream.

There are slight lulls between verses of the songs, and just a minute after the sign language translator has come forward, a woman in the front row stands up to leave. In one of the lulls, everyone can clearly hear her say, “This is stupid. He’s faking. To make fun of sign language this way is offensive. I’m leaving.”

The whole audience stops laughing as she struggles to get down the aisle. Your troupe member is unsure how to finish the song, and the wind has gone out of the performance. It’s like a train wreck. Suddenly, you leap forward and go down on your knee in front of the woman trying to leave.

“I beseech you: save us from this horribly translated foreign film! I’m not a cannibal; I’m just badly translated! Save the day and be our translator! We never meant to offend anyone. Please help us do this right.”

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Contents

Hough, Karen Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub
Medium 9781626560475

ONE: THE BADDEST WAY TO PREPARE

Hough, Karen Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

There’s just too much going on in presentations: information to remember, slides crammed with data, your pulse racing, and all those rotten rules to follow. Focus, people, focus! You need to peel away the excess stuff that gets in the way of efficient, authentic presenting.

Let’s put on our geek hats and consider why this matters. Neuroscience is uncovering more and more information about the importance of focus. David Rock and Jeffrey Schwartz have done insanely cool research into how our brains connect to our leadership abilities and to our everyday human behavior. As we dump behaviors that stand in our way (i.e., break old rules) and replace them with new ways to focus our thoughts and energy, we are actually rewiring our brains. Being ourselves becomes easier and easier if we focus on it.

Over time, paying enough attention to any specific brain connection keeps the relevant circuitry open and dynamically alive. These circuits can then eventually become not just chemical links but stable, physical changes in the brain’s structure… the brain changes as a function of where an individual puts his or her attention. The power is in the focus.1

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The Third Secret of Improvisation Team Equity

Hough, Karen Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

She exclaims, “Yes! And I’ll have the photosynthesis shake with a side of good topsoil.”

The waiter writes on a pantomimed pad and then turns to you. You consider your menu before saying, “Well, gee, how about a nice salad?”

Everyone onstage looks at one another in shock. They follow the body language of the waiter, simultaneously letting out an audible gasp. All of them eye you, even the “furniture.” The waiter is stepping back, clutching his heart.

“You are not . . . you are not a—”

“Vegetable cannibal!” your date, the Boston lettuce, shouts!

Without any consultation, your “chair” runs over to a piano in the corner, your date’s “chair” grabs a microphone, and the two people forming the table start to dance in sync. The waiter pushes you against the wall, where you act as if you’ve been caught in a police sting. He starts to pantomime filming the whole thing.

The troupe member with the microphone follows the pianist’s cue and starts to sing an improvised blues lament about the horrors of cannibalism. Your last troupe member, who has not been involved up to this point, comes to the front of the stage and translates the whole song into sign language.

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Now Get Out There!

Hough, Karen Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

NOW GET OUT THERE!

The CFO of a multibillion-dollar healthcare company once addressed an internal group of young leaders. He talked about meetings and presentations to stockholders and how tough those could be. The best part of his speech, however, was how he embraced his badness. He talked about how his “bad presentations” were an asset to his career and company. You see, his delivery was not polished — it was down-to-earth, focused on the market, and extremely casual. He stood in stark contrast to the CEO, who was a consummate salesman, very energetic, and decidedly polished. The cool part was that they both realized that they made the perfect team. Stockholders need to hear about excitement and growth plans from a charismatic leader. But when it comes to the numbers and the tough questions, they want to hear it from someone who comes across as fair, honest, and approachable. For this guy, it was like a badge of honor — people trusted him more for his imperfection. He was being his bad self in the best way.

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