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Aug 7, 2017

If you have been thinking of Improv as something you only see on shows like Saturday Night Live or a theater, think again.  Karen Hough, CEO of the ImprovEdge  has been helping individuals and companies use Improv to be industry leaders.   In a recent interview, Karen shares real life examples of how organizations and their leaders effectively manage change, competition and failure by using Improv techniques like “Thinking Upside down”.

7 Ways You Can Use Improv To Gain A Competitive Advantage

  1. Look outside your industry for inspiration. So often when companies evaluate innovation the tendency is to first look first inside their industry.  Karen shares how King Hawaiian Bread company looked to Amazon and Medical device companies to find ways to retain high quality and increase productivity and in the end through technology lowered the cost to produce their bread.
  2. Be inquisitive. In another example of how to look for creative ideas, Karen suggests we should ask questions about a product like “What could be different way to surprise and delight our customer”? This type of thought process opens windows to unexpected solutions.
  3. Talk with non-experts. Some of the best ideas come from people who don’t know the business or goals and they offer totally fresh concepts. 
  4. Use observation. Really look around and take it all in before making a decision.  What are people saying, doing and looking for to solve their problem.  Whether you are trying to sell a product or service, being in tune, present and really listen first are keys to developing innovative ideas.
  5. Ask open ended questions. This is especially powerful on the trade show floor with face-to-face marketing.  Instead of saying “How are you” or “Hello” when an attendee approaches, try an open ended question like “Tell me more”.  When you ask, listen and observe the outcome will be much better.
  6. Change how you view failure. Athletes and Improv actors share one thing in common: resilience. The key is not to build up and create a great big failure, rather respond to the little failures along the way and move on.  We need to not be so risk adverse that we don’t try something because we fear the outcome.

 “Failing is part of the landscape of innovation”- Karen Hough, CEO ImprovEdge

  1. Be prepared for anything. Preparation is one of the most important steps you can take to be ready to improvise.  Write out your goals, what outcome do you want from a meeting, a trade show conversation or a one-on-one meeting with your boss?  Determine first the one thing you want to get out of the meeting and then practice what you are going to say out loud before your meeting.

In her upcoming book “Go With It: Embrace the Unexpected to Drive Change”, Karen shares examples of how using the principles of process of listening, agreeing, and discussing an idea so that you can apply the Improv technique to your personal and professional life.

Resources: Karen’s recommended book “Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiations—and Positive Strategies for change” by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever.

To learn more about Karen Hough and find valuable resources like the “Yes Deck” check out

Credits: A big thank you to Christy Haussler of Team Podcast for editing this episode!

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