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Insights and Applied Improvisation

The Science Behind “Yes, And”

As the birthplace of modern improvisational study and practice, The Second City is world-renowned for its legacy of creating award-winning comedy productions and cultivating generation after generation of superstar performers.

In addition, the development of improvisation as a pedagogy beyond the stage has been an incredibly rich part of The Second City experience since its founding in 1959 by a group of University of Chicago students. In the 1960s, Second City co-founder Paul Sills opened The Second City Parents School, a cooperative elementary school in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood.

During the 1980s, Second City formalized its various workshops and formally launched The Second City Training Center, which has grown to become the largest school of improvisational studies in the world. The Training Center, which operates in Chicago, Toronto and Los Angeles, now offers diverse programming that includes the Comedy Studies program, a partnership with Columbia College Chicago that led to the very first BA in Comedy Writing and Performance offered in the country. A corporate arm of The Second City launched in the 1990s, Second City Works, and works with over 400 clients annually to deliver uniquely engaging content and apply improvisational tenets to the business world.

In 2017, The Second City announced its newest collaboration, a partnership that returns the comedy institution to its roots at the University of Chicago. Working with the Center for Decision Research at the Booth School of Business, this multi-faceted partnership will look at Behavioral Science through the lens of improvisation.

Providing cutting-edge research, robust executive educational programs and ongoing events and publications, Second City and the Center for Decision Research are working to bridge data-driven insight and practices that unlock the immense power of human capital through a multitude of offerings:

  • Executive education programs 
  • ReWireU, the professional development program at The Second City Training Center
  • Ongoing clinical research

The Center for Decision Research is currently operating pop-up labs at Second City’s historic Chicago campus. A variety of experiments and surveys are being conducted in classrooms and with willing audience members in an effort to distill pertinent case studies.

  • Existing academic research and data already points to the power of improvisation in the following arenas:
  • Divergent Thinking: “Improvisation encourages people to break away from set patterns of thinking.” –Carine Lewis, Peter J. Lovatt; University of Hertfordshire, UK
  • Listening: “Good listening was consistently seen as a two-way dialogue, rather than a one-way ‘speaker versus hearer’ interaction. The best conversations were active.” –Jack Zenger, Joseph Folkman; Harvard Business Review
  • Negotiation: “Cooperative improvisation yielded more successful negotiations.” –Paul Ingram, William Duggan; Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies
  • Strategic Intuition: “Strategic intuition is a model of improvisation that applies to situations new to the manager. Probably no one has faced exactly the same situation, but there are countless examples from history that can fit different pieces of the problem. You improvise a new combination to suit the problem at hand.” –Paul Ingram, William Duggan; Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies
  • Decision Making: “Without improvisation, emergency management loses flexibility in the face of changing conditions.” –David Mendonca, Giampiero E.G. Beroggi, William A. Wallace; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • Problem Solving: “Improvisation shows us creativity in action. It shows that – in art, as in life – failures and mistakes can be turned into chances for original and unpredictable achievements.” –Alessandro Bertinetto, University of Udino
  • Teamwork: We argue for the role of improvisation to be incorporated as an essential component in the teaching and assessing of teamwork that leads to creativity and/or creative output.” –Rachael Hains-Wesson, Vikki Pollard, Angela Campbell; Deakin University

Read Our Book, Yes, And

How Improvisation Reverses “No, But” Thinking and Improves Creativity and Collaboration– Lessons from The Second City

“I know one of these guys, so at least half of this book is pretty good. Yes, And is for anyone looking to be more creative in their work and in their life.” –Stephen Colbert

“Yes, And takes you behind the curtain of Second City to reveal deep insights and practical tips about how to lead a creative life. If you want to flourish in the new world of work, this book is an essential read.” —Daniel H. Pink, author of To Sell is Human and Drive

“You’ll learn, you’ll laugh, and you’ll immediately test out the rich set of practical exercises at the office-and the dinner table.” — Adam Grant, Wharton professor and New York Times bestselling author of Give and Take

“Accepting and building on what others have initiated, Yes, And is the best teamwork advice for the stage or the boardroom.” —Dick Costollo, Former Twitter CEO

Press About Our Work

Fast Company

Yes, And … 5 More Lessons In Improv-ing Collaboration And Creativity From Second City

The Second City Way of Better Brainstorming

Vanity Fair

Michael Lewis on Yes, And; Why You Should Read the Second City Book

Business Innovation Factory

Improv for Business? Yes, and…see how it works

Featured Case Study

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