By Kelly Leonard – Executive Director of Insights and Applied Improvisation
Here’s the story in a nutshell. And I’ll preface it by saying that it only further emphasizes the importance of embracing discomfort as a source for creativity, of seeing all obstacles as gifts and in making mistakes work for you.
Remember when The Second City almost burned down? A year and a half ago, many of our offices were destroyed by a fire that was valiantly controlled by the brave men and women of the Chicago Fire Department. But the results meant that a good portion of our staff had to move to temporary office space in downtown Chicago.
The temporary offices were, let’s say, not ideal for what Second City does. The space was quickly dubbed “The Beige Palace” and we were constantly getting reprimanded by the office gate keeper’s for laughing too much.
But it was because of that discomfort, that this idea had its beginnings. Steve Johnston, who was running Second City Works at the time, was crammed into a tiny corner office when I came by to escape the tiny office I was crammed into with three other people. At that point, it was unclear how this de-location would truly affect the day to day business. “I had a weird idea,” I offered to Steve. I had recently read a couple of review of books on negotiation which had mentioned the importance of being able to “improvise” if you wanted to excel in that space. But none of the books dug any deeper than that. “What if we found an expert in negotiation and co-created a workshop?” “Yes. Go do that,”said Steve without missing a beat.
After googling “Chicago, academic, negotiation,” I found myself in the office of Professor Eugene Caruso at the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago. Eugene was kind enough to entertain me for a meeting and smart enough to invite his wife, Heather, who is the Director of the Center for Decision Research at Booth.
We talked about how improvisation is yoga for your social skills and how it manifests itself in so much more than comedy on stage. Within seconds, this negotiation idea became the smallest part of our conversation. As Heather summed it up at the time, “At Second City, you have an improvisational pedagogy that allows people to make multiple choices – from bad, to good to better – and in Behavioral Science we have decades of research that shows how people fundamentally make bad choices for themselves. Those two things have never been put together.”
So that’s how we got here. With a lot of incredible hard work from people like Anne Libera, Nicholas Epley, Ayelet Fishbach, Doug Hutton, Jen Ellison, Piero Procaccini, Jasmine Kwong, Marilyn Rupp Cox, Scott Zoll, Linnea Gandhi and more.
Second City Works, The Second City Training Center and audiences of The Second City in general will all be taking part in a multi-faceted collaboration that will be researching Behavioral Science through the lens of improvisation. In addition to the research, we will be collaborating on workshops and products that combine scientific insight with improvisational pedagogy. Such as RewireU = a new kind of executive education platform that we are rolling out later this month.
You can learn more about the RewireU program here.
We will be sure to roll out more information as the partnership progresses.