Try Improv to Improve your Business Skills

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There’s a new class being taught at business schools across the country that some people may think is a joke. The truth is if you’re looking to further your career in real estate, improv classes could help you too. Short for improvisation, it’s a technique widely used by actors, comedians and performance artists. Think of the show Whose Line Is it Anyway? More colleges are realizing what former improv comic, Lakshmi Balachandra noticed upon completing her MBA at MIT Sloan and that’s improv improves skills like creativity and leadership.

Now she teaches improvisational Leadership at her Alma Mata and lecturers on the subject to advanced negotiation students at Harvard Business School. "Improv teaches you how to think on your feet and how to react and adapt very quickly to unexpected events and things you may not have planned for. It applies to leadership and it applies to negotiation, where you never have control over what happens," she relates. "Negotiation is a dynamic process -- you have to be able to think on your feet and adapt."

The five rules of improv Balachandra brings into the classroom are:

  1. "Yes, and." Just accept that what you are presented is how it is and go with it.

  2. Avoid asking questions. If you ask too many questions then other people give all the answers and do all the work.

  3. Listening. Instead of planning what you’re going to say you have to listen to what is being said, otherwise you will be lost.

  4. Add information. If you don’t speak up you have no influence on how things progress.

  5. Eye contact. Using eye contact and body language cues. you can pick up on and react to how others are feeling.

Robert Kulhan, an adjunct assistant professor at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, explains the value of just going with it. "We get bogged down in analysis paralysis, or just the pressure of being right, and we feel like we have to be correct all the time. But if you just make a decision you'll have room to adapt and react and get it to work within the parameters you need,” he says, "There's a misconception in business that you have to be 100 percent correct 100 percent of the time, whereas the truth is you have to be 100 percent correct about 10 percent of the time -- the rest of the time you have to just make decisions.”

By Heather Fairchild - Heather is a multimedia developer with experience in web, film, photography and animation as well as traditional fine arts like painting and sculpting. In addition to writing for, she is co-founder of design and promotion company, Creative Kazoo with fellow Nexxt blogger, Staci Dennis. Heather’s spare time consists of making puppets, teaching Sunday School, building Legos and doing science experiments with her children.


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