Improvisational magic

Not surprisingly I am an improvisation advocate.  This week I had a series of conversations with a diverse grouping of executives, friends, and colleagues about various life challenges.  In almost every case I found myself advocating on behalf of the basics of improvisation:

Say yes
Actively listen
Focus on the ensemble and/or the other
Stay postive
Build and create with others

I’ve been reading a few articles this week that brought improvisation to mind. One article in the HBR this week — How to Really Listen by Peter Bregman — has much to say about listening that I agree with.  Sadly Bregman leaves out play, performance and improvisation and offers readers a cognitive behavioral approach to developing better listening capabilities.

One thing that Bergman wrote in this article jumped out at me and it is this simple statement:

Listening, it turns out, is magic.

I think there is a magic that comes with creating conversation and a key ingredient is active listening. This made me think of the wonderful work that my colleague, Cathy Salit the CEO of Performance of A Lifetime, does with corporate executives.  Cathy is an expert at helping people actively listen and create new conversations.  Here’s a wonderful excerpt to an interview Cathy recently gave with Michelle James on her blog, The Fertile Unknown

What mindsets and behaviors do you see as essential for effectively navigating the new work paradigm?

Cathy: Improvise. Perform. Relate to every conversation, meeting, and interaction as an improvisational scene in which you are a performer, writer and director. Break rules and make up new ones — not just in coming up with ideas, but in how we organize what we do together and how we do it in the workplace. Become a creative artist whose medium is everyday life.

We can all become a creative artist “whose medium is everyday life” — now that’s magic!