Rules of Improv

One of the things I hope to explore on this blog is how the rules and practices of improvisation can help us be more adaptable in life, especially in leadership roles.

I was introduced to improv mainly through comedy, like the show “Whose line is it anyway?” But I know there is more to the art, so I started searching for some agreed upon “rules of improv” and maybe even some best practices. Turns out this is hard to do.

Not surprising for an art form that is all about going with the flow. 🙂

The improv encyclopedia lists a number of different “rules”, each with their own reasons for existing and slightly different advice. The list that most closely matches my admittedly limited experience with improv is “David Alger’s First 10 rules of Improv.”

Check out the link for a bit more on each rule, but for now here is the list.

1) Say Yes-and!

2) After the ‘and’ add new information.

3) Don’t Block.

4) Avoid Questions.

5) Focus on the Here and Now.

6) Establish the Location!

7) Be Specific- Provide Details!

8) Change, Change, Change!

9) For serious and emotional scenes, focus on characters and relationships.

10) For humour, commit and take choices to the nth degree or focus on actions/objects.”

This list gives us a good starting point, and over the next few blog posts I’m going to explore what it might mean to use these rules in leadership.

Let me know what you think of these rules, and how you might see yourself using them in your life?

You need to work to live out your purpose.

Maybe you’ve seen this diagram.


I ran across this image on Hustle and Grind quite a while ago and have seen it pop up other places since.

Its one of those images that makes true the adage, a picture is worth a thousand words.

There’s a problem, though. It looks so simple, and we all know life is not simple.

What if you have to work to find a way to get paid for the thing you love, are great at, and the world needs? What if you need to help the world see that they really need the thing you love, are great at, and can get paid for? What if you need to learn how to be great at it, because you love it, the world needs it, and you can get paid for it? What if you need to learn to love it, because you are great at it, you can get paid for it, and the world needs it?

I think you get the point.

You will need to work.

You need to work to live out your purpose.

So don’t get too bogged down by trying to sort out ahead of time what fits in these boxes. Use these boxes to help you identify the work you need to do to be able to devote yourself to your purpose.


The thread of purpose

“Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is as unique as is his special opportunity to implement it.” – Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning (2006). p. 109

I’ve been on a strange trajectory in life. Born and raised on a large farm in the middle of nowhere, Southern Alberta, Canada. I have experience many different professions working for various members of my extended family at different stages in my life; from changing billboard advertisements, to power washing manure spreaders, to retrofitting new light fixtures in a research center, to being a research assistant for an extended agricultural study in rural China through the Canadian International Development Agency. I have a BA in Economics from the University of Lethbridge, a MSc in the Philosophy of Social Science from the London School of Economics and Political Science, a Master of Divinity from Calvin Theological Seminary, a Mastere Specialise from HEC Paris and the University of Oxford, and a Certificate of Social Innovation from Simon Fraser University.

The thread which seems to pull this all together is the desire to help others make this world a better place. I want people to know how valuable they are in making this world a better place. I want teams and organisations to understand and trust their team mates so that true collaborative work can take place without unnecessary posturing or ego.

I want to help others to be creative and innovative as we improvise on purpose.