Bob Kulhan is an Adjunct Professor of Business Administration for The Fuqua School of Business, Duke University as well as an Adjunct Professor of Business for Columbia Business School, Columbia University. He also is the Founder and CEO of a company called Business Improv.
Bob has a new book called Getting to "Yes, And" The Art of Business Improv, published by Stanford Business Books. Which led him to TotalPicture Radio, and a Career Strategies Podcast with your host Peter Clayton.
I've been looking forward to talking with Bob for weeks. I'm a huge fan of improv, and Bob was trained at the famed Second City in Chicago, and to name-drop just a couple of people, he worked with Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. I love standup too, and fortunately Netflix continues to serve up a continuous stream of standup comedy specials. Added recently, I highly recommend 3 Mics with Neal Brennan.
Bob's company develops experiential learning programs for businesses. For over two decades Bob has performed and taught improvisation with the most elite improvisers in the world. In addition to Second City, his teaching and performing credits include iO, the Annoyance Theatre, Columbia College, The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, UCLA Anderson School of Management, Columbia University Business School, Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, and universities in Istanbul and Australia.
Share with us some of your background. What led you to improv and Second City?
As I mentioned your company is called Business Improv. I'm sure you're asked this all the time -- so let's address it immediately. What does improv have to do with business?
In your book you discuss debunking the myths regarding improv -- that many people assume improv means just winging it or "I'm making it up as I go along." This is wrong. Not even close. So define improv for us.
I've been reading your book on Metro North (which has helped shortened my trips into New York from Connecticut), and you tie sports into improv on numerous occasions. So, (sorry football fans in Atlanta) I have to bring up the Super Bowl -- because it's something that most people either watched or certainly heard about and have seen highlights of Super Bowl 51. In commenting on the game Tom Brady said something like "it certainly was not the way we drew it up." So Bob, would you add to the Super Bowl narrative 'one of the best improv performances of all time'?
Let's get to the title of your book, please explain the significance of "Yes, And."
One of your techniques I mentioned in the intro is called whole body listening. Watching Neal Brennan's brilliant Netflix special 3 Mics the term whole body performance popped into my head because as he switches from one liners to stand up to emotional his body language, facial expression -- everything changes.
So what do you mean by whole body listening?
Can you walk us through one of you corporate workshops or training sessions? I would imagine you get your fair share of skeptics. Like ' what has hr done now?' Am I right?
You have a chapter on branding -- specifically personal branding which has been so overused (in my opinion), that it's become cliché - share with us the focus of your book you write "branding really stems from one key attribute: awareness. Please expand on this concept?
We spend a great deal of time on this show talking about employee engagement (or the lack thereof) the statistics are rather dismal. How can an improv mindset help managers and executives help with engagement?
Same question, but let's move from engagement to retention. Especially millennials who seem to enjoy a change of scenery every couple of years.
Another question I imagine you get all the time -- what's the ROI? Do you have any numbers around organizations that adopt a more improvisational culture?
To change a company's culture requires buy-in from the CEO. Am I right? So let's talk about your chapter - How to Eat an Elephant.
One final question... many managers and executives I know are quite introverted and hate public speaking let alone having to make presentations to their board or senior management. How can improv techniques help them prepare and become more confident?
How can people connect with you?
About Peter Clayton
Peter Clayton, Producer/Host, is an award-winning producer/director of radio, television, documentary, video, interactive and Web-based media who has created breakthrough media for a wide array of Fortune 100 clients.