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Using an Improv Mindset for Leadership and Collaboration

Today we spoke with Andrew McMasters, Founder of Jet City Improv and Improv Mindset, which focuses on communications, team building, and presentation support for businesses. Andrew is an actor, director and entrepreneur with over 30 years of experience in the arts. He is a founder of Jet City Improv, a non-profit theater that he managed for 25 years. Improv Mindset has worked with multiple Fortune 500 companies including Amazon, Microsoft, GE, Hasbro, Google, Valve, Nike and Apple. Its dedicated to experiential learning, providing opportunities for self-discovery and driving innovation in our everyday lives.

According to Andrew, experiential learning is simply learning by doing. However, when it comes to communication and public speaking, this may not be an easy feat to accomplish, as part of the experience of learning-by-doing is failing. “You want to make sure your mistakes are micro-learning,” says Andrew. “How can you continue to learn from it?” Even though at its face, communication within teams isn’t something that lends itself to risk taking, an Improv Mindset is one that advocates listening and understanding what the other person is meaning, taking in that information, and building on it. Like improv, mistakes in communication will happen, but if you are open and honest before you speak, any mistakes are minimized and allow you to learn and proceed.

“You want to make sure your mistakes are micro-learning,” says Andrew. “How can you continue to learn from it?

Andrew found that one of the most common scenarios for communication mistakes – or lack of communication – came in interactions with management. He relayed a story of speaking with a group of engineers who were nervous around software errors they have found. “Why are you nervous?” he recalls asking them, “they WANT to hear from you!”. He recommends that people assume the best of intentions in the person they are talking with.

Another way to utilize actor’s tools and improvisation is in preparing for a job interview. One exercise is called the “three-legged dog”, in which you are asked a question and must fit in the words “three”, “legged”, and “dog” in your response. For example, if asked to describe your favorite walking spot, you may respond with “I have three favorite places where I go running – I’m long legged – and can take my dog.” A job interviewer can identify their three qualities – their three-legged dog – before the interview and make sure they can fit their qualities into a response.

We went into more detail on different exercises to practice, as well as how better communication could benefit you in today’s world of zoom calls, which you can view below. If you’d like to get in touch with Andrew, visit his website Thank you, Andrew!

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