Innovation at the Speed of Laughter

It’s amazing what happens when you stay in motion…

I received Innovation at the Speed of Laughter at an awards banquet last fall. It’s a terrific book that uses the basic tenets of improvisation to help companies become more effective in pursuing new ideas and engaging the entire organization. If your company needs more energy, more ideas, and more success, I recommend John Sweeney’s book.

Sweeney lives here in town and runs the Brave New Workshop, so I reached out to meet him, get the book signed, and maybe have a word or two. After three weeks of trying, we finally connected on Friday…and what a connection it was!

It turns out that John went to the same high school as I did, and was a classmate of my brother. For the better part of an hour, we shared tales of the people we both know, triumphs and failures, and ideas for making the world a better place. It was a great conversation. Here are some of the main points.

Yes…and… A key part of great improvisation is accepting everything as a gift. Comedic routines would stop in their tracks if the actors took time to argue on stage about ideas. Instead, they always accept what they are given and move forward. The same approach can work for us in business. Our normal tendency is to immediately judge ideas and say, “no…but that won’t work.”  Instead, what would happen if we accepted those new ideas as gifts and say, “yes…and how can that work?” How many more ideas would we try or let ourselves explore?

Keep moving forward. Improv actors can’t call a time-out in the middle of their act in order to organize and plot a next move. They constantly move forward, finding a path as they go. In markets that are constantly changing and moving faster every day, businesses would be better served to take less time to plot and plan. Instead, focus on customer needs and keep moving ahead.

Open and energized. Energy and enthusiasm is the fuel that can carry the day in many difficult situations. Motivated teams usually find better solutions, faster than tightly controlled groups. The ability to absorb, attempt, and execute ideas with an energetic team can make terrific things happen.

Surprise! Energetic teams, working in an open environment and focused on the customer, often come up with unexpected solutions. At first, they may seem impossible and impractical; but in most cases they address difficult issues in new and creative ways. If your organization is set up to prevent surprises, you will never see these breakthrough ideas.

Read the book and explore the ideas for yourself. You will come away with a whole new approach to your problems and a new appreciation for those comedians on stage!


Please join us at The Eagle Club gathering on Wednesday evening (April 21st). I will be presenting on branding and networking. The Eagle Group was formed to support Twin Cities veterans. Veterans and anyone who wants to show their suppport are welcome!

Click here for more information!


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April 2010
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