Improv 4 Entrepreneurs, Negotiating, Business

Research at MIT and Harvard Business School demontrates Improvisation as a useful tool in business.

I stumbled upon some interesting research linking Improv training to numerous business skills. We have been focused on team building, but for years I have made the notion that Improv is a must training to be a better leader, sales/marketing pro and customer service.

In previous articles I have shared the benefits of laughter on individuals and team. Just playing Improv games develops valuable skills. These researchers reveal Improv training a must for all new reasons.

I am an entrepreneur, my own boss since 2005. I have worked with hundreds on artists and thousands of students. I have presented hundreds of workshops for corporate teams and have coached team leaders in presentation skills. I have produced 7000+ shows since 2002.

I present this information with two goals. One, of course, looking for team leaders to hire me and my team for shows and workshops, or to come take our public classes (lots of online options available Worldwide to you and your team). Two, to implore my fellow artists to embrace their talents off stage.

My success comes from employing my performing skills in my business practices. My success comes from my work running a team, marketing our services and being the customer service rep for my clients. In this time of crisis for artists, embracing your talents and your improv training could be your salvation.

I know dozens of amazing artists that are fearless on stage but shy away from the unknown off stage. They don’t embrace their “YES! And…” training in their every day lives. They don’t practice what they preach 24/7. They don’t use their skills to market themselves or create opportunities. They instead put that time and effort into a day job.

I see the benefits in my daily business, social and personal interactions. I have seen students as young as eight years old do the same. I see the game in every day life. I see the patterns that connect us all. When you truly embrace “YES! And…” your world changes. Change your story, change your life!

In 2005, Lakshmi Balachandra, MIT’s Sloan School of Management, launched into major research in Improv and is relation to entrepreneurship and negotiation.

Improvisation and Negotiation: Expecting the Unexpected

Negotiators must improvise. As the negotiations process unfolds, they work with new information, continually making decisions along the way to achieve favorable results. Skilled improvisational jazz musicians and actors perform in similar ways: they repeatedly practice song chord progressions and notes or scene guidelines before a performance; then, during the performance, they work with the information or the music they hear in order to react and respond, making decisions along the way to produce dazzling music or a compelling scene.

Several aspects of negotiation are similar to improvisation. Both negotiators and improvisational performers need to have a similar mind‐set to be successful, both need to recognize and/or change that mind‐set at times, and both must craft creative solutions. 

The incorporation of improvisation techniques into the negotiation skills repertoire holds great promise for practicing negotiators and is a worthy topic of future negotiation research and teaching.

Balachandra, L., Bordone, R.C., Menkel-Meadow, C., Ringstrom, P., Sarath, E. (2005). Improvisation and Negotiation: Expecting the Unexpected. Negotiation Journal. Vol: 21, Issue: 4, Page: 415–423. Wiley Online Library.

Improvisation and Teaching Negotiation: Developing Three Essential Skills

The notion of an adaptable negotiator, who can respond to any situation he or she encounters, resonates with every negotiation expert. Unexpected things happen in negotiation, and negotiators must be able to adapt in fleet and effective ways. Dealing with the unexpected, responding “in the moment,” and adapting effectively to sudden changes — these are the skills of an improvisational artist, and they are effective skills for negotiators to learn.

Balachandra, L., Crossan, M., Devin, L., Leary, K., Patton, B. (2005). Improvisation and Teaching Negotiation: Developing Three Essential Skills. Negotiation Journal. Vol: 21, Issue: 4, Page: 435-441. Wiley Online Library.

The Art of Negotiation: How to Improvise Agreement in a Chaotic World by Michael Wheeler

From Harvard Business School.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot from friends and colleagues in the field. My approach to negotiation differs in that it takes into account real-world interactions between parties by looking at the uncertainty of negotiations and how to develop flexible strategy when you have incomplete information.

Negotiation cannot be scripted. Your goals may change during the course of negotiation, a little or a lot. Unexpected opportunities and obstacles may pop up. Your across-the-table counterpart may be more or less cooperative than you expected. My approach to negotiation addresses these possibilities.

I stumbled across some actual lesson plans by the researchers. They were mediocre basic workshop skills, but clearly not designed by improvisers.

The secret to growing out of improv is application. Take a class, start a troupe but what ever you do engage in play as often as you can.

In my book, STAND-UP COMEDY, I emphasize the importance of stage time to develop as a comic, both to work out material and build the confidence needed to succeed.

To truly embrace “YES And…” in your life, at work and at play, you need to be playing. After every workshops for kids and adults, I say: If this was fun, do it every day. You will learn just by playing. And you will bring joy to your life. If this was a challenge, DO IT EVERY DAY. Practice makes perfect. E ery time you get on stage it gets easier. Every time you hide and avoid, that gets easier too. The younger you conquer your fears, the more time you have to be free.

Walt Frasier co-founded EIGHT IS NEVER ENOUGH in 2002 performing 7000+ shows off Broadway and top comedy clubs, plus touring Nationwide to corporate events, colleges and universities, plus k12 educational outreach. His resume includes 25+ years of international theater and TV credits: Billions (SHO), Friends of the People (TruTV), Blue Bloods (CBS), Royal Pains (USA), Lilyhammer (NETFLIX) etc. Corporate clients include JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Twitter, BING/Microsoft, BAML, Home Depot, Ernst & Young, Louis Vuitton, Coach, UBS, BDO, AMEX, Master Card, Datadog, NY Life, Accenture,
Macy’s, 360i, IBM, GM, KRAFT, UNILEAVER, HBO, and 100s more…


We are very excited to move to a subscription style service for online classes to maximize the value to our students and their parents. Get unlimited access to FOUR WEEKS of classes for just $125. Select the date/time of the first class you wish to attend. See below for current class offerings. Not ready to commit? You can sign up for ONE class for $25. FOUR classes for $75. ZOOM links sent after registration.

  • Stand-Up Comedy by Walt Fraser is a text book for comics and teachers looking to bring fun creative writing sections into the classroom.
  • Improv on Zoom by Walt Frasier is a list of games with tips and tricks to play online as well as Improv technique and wisdom.
  • Both books are now available via Kindle and Paperback on Amazon. Coming soon to Audible!
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