Killer Innovations with Phil McKinney
An award-winning podcast and nationally syndicated radio show that looks at the innovations that are changing our lives and how their innovators used creativity and design to take their raw idea and create game-changing products or services. Phil McKinney, retired CTO of HP and the creator, and host of Killer Innovations has been credited with forming and leading multiple teams that FastCompany and BusinessWeek list as one of the “50 Most Innovative”. His recognition includes Vanity Fair naming him the “The Innovation Guru”, MSNBC and Fox Business calling him "The Gadget Guy" and the San Jose Mercury News dubbing him the "chief seer".

Helping companies and teams to unlock their natural creative ability can be daunting to innovation leaders. One method that I have found incredibly useful is to use improv comedy skills as a way to get team members comfortable being uncomfortable since in improv, you never know what's going to happen next.

Kelly Leonard, Executive Director of Insights and Applied Improvisation at The Second City and Second City Works, shares his experience and insights from Second City being part of the training for such creative talent as Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, Amy Poehler, Seth Meyers, Steve Carell, Keegan Michael Key, Amy Sedaris and others.

So what role can and does improv comedy skills play in helping teams and individuals boost their creative output?

Through Second City Works, Kelly and his team bring the skills, training and experiences of improvisational comedy to help companies such as Coca Cola, Microsoft, Memorial Sloan Kettering and DDB Worldwide unlock their teams natural ability to be highly creative.

How?

Improv Comedy Skills

Leonard shares there are two core basic skills that directly apply:

  1. Careful listening: In one exercise he uses with clients, a group has to create a story one word at a time by having each person in a circle add one (and only one) word to the story based on what has been said already. It forces people to have to focus on their listen skills and not their talking skills since 90% of this exercise is about listening.
  2. Building on the ideas of other by using "Yes And ..": In a second exercise, Leonard sets a rule that for the first team minutes, any comments ideas must build on the ideas of others by starting each statement with the words, "Yes - and ...". This reinforces listening skills and offering positive reinforcement to the original idea and the premise that the best ideas on built upon the ideas of others.

For more exercises and how they apply to the business world, check out Kelly Leonard's book, Yes, And: How Improvisation Reverses "No, But" Thinking and Improves Creativity and Collaboration--Lessons from The Second City.

Kelly shares a number of other experiences and examples of how improve comedy can boost innovation. To hear the other examples, listen to the audio from show below ..