The other AI

by Stacey Mason ([email protected]) 221 views 

More than a decade ago a pivotal book by author Daniel Pink (“A Whole New Mind”) suggested that forces in the world economy would shift society from left-brain thinking to right-brain thinking as the dominant thought pattern.

In retrospect, that is precisely where we’ve landed. Think about the relevance of storytelling, our desire for product design, a resurgent demand for all things handcrafted, or how individuals are searching for greater meaning in their lives. It’s all foreshadowed in this book, summed up nicely in two great sentences: “Meaning is the new money. The MFA is the new MBA.”

No longer are the arts being undervalued, quite the opposite. They are being sought out and leveraged. The merging of art forms with business thinking is driving some unique development propositions.

Case in point, the merging of business competencies with Applied Improvisation (AI), which is the use of principles and techniques of improvisational theater in non-theater settings, used to enhance the effectiveness of individuals, teams and organizations. The art of improvisation capitalizes on the creative process to help “reframe” how leaders interpret — and therefore leverage — personal and business skill sets.

The benefits of AI are far ranging, with the following merely a small sampling of why business leaders are embracing this powerful platform. AI skillfully merges the business of art with the art of business to help you do the following.

Find your voice. You unleash your unique voice by owning who you are. Maybe your gift is humor or high intellect, or perhaps you radiate pure happiness. Find out where you add value and do more of that.

Create confidence. Being confident and comfortable on the business stages takes deliberate practice. Personal presence is as much about finding your voice as it is about how you use it. It’s about authentically engaging with others by understanding and owning your personal power.

Master storytelling. Storytelling is a nuanced art. And it is quite possibly the center of the human experience. There is almost a visceral sensation when you come to understand the world of someone else through his or her story. Our personal perspectives often shift because these narratives change how we see the broader context of the world. In every scene you’re telling a story — and how you tell it matters the most.

Build trust. Ubuntu is an African philosophy loosely translated as “I can only be at my best if you are at your best … and you can only be at your best if I am at my best.” This mutual accountability thrives through trust.

Increase collaboration. Collaboration is a horizontal construct that operates across business units throughout an entire enterprise to create seismic shifts in business thinking. The very essence of improvisation is collaboration. Everyone on stage brings a brick, and together they build a cathedral.

Understand exposure to risk. You basically have a free pass to mess up and nobody will care; it just doesn’t matter. The pressure of experimentation is removed if we don’t feel we can fail. Error is endlessly diversified.

Develop divergent problem-solving skills. As the scene develops, and you have no idea what you will do next, you become much better at divergent problem-solving (when there are multiple right answers). Often times in business we get stuck looking for the one answer, when in fact there are several best answers.

Drive creativity and innovation. Innovation does best in environments where ideas simply flow. There are moments of absolute brilliance that you stumble upon while you’re busy making theater out of thin air. Embrace serendipity.

Move with speed and agility. With “disruption” being the new business-as-usual, it’s essential that individuals and organizations move at an unprecedented rate of change. Perhaps never before has the need to work from the very top of your intelligence been greater.

So yes, the arts are being sought out and leveraged, and they are living side by side with business imperatives. Just like the other AI.

Ancora Imparo … (Still, I am learning)

Stacey Mason is the founder of The Improv Lab, a professional development business in Bentonville. More information is available at or by calling 479-877-0131. The opinions expressed are those of the author.