Dan Pink has written best selling books such as “A Whole New Mind” and “To Sell is Human.” He recently sat down with Second City Works’ Kelly Leonard on our podcast “Getting to Yes, And,” to talk about how business is often an act of improvisation:
DP: Oh, totally… not to suggest that I’ve completely drunk the Kool-Aid, but I really think that you can look at the lessons of improv… the theology of improv, and it’s like other kinds of theology. It’s a guide to life. And I say that not only because I’m on your podcast, Kelly, but I mean it. I’ve said it to civilians too. I’ll give you an example of how much this has changed how I approach things. It’s not a monumental example.
I’m on the board of a not for profit and the not for profit is involved with a dispute with another not for profit. And there was some communication recently, and I said to this group, “we have to listen for an offer here. And there is an offer here guys. We’ve got to get away from this idea that we’re going to battle them. Look at this again and tell me: there’s an offer here. It doesn’t say I offer you X, Y or Z, but read it again. Think about it as if you’re looking and trying to hear an offer.”
And that was huge.
DP: There’s no way to pre-improv, knowing a little bit about improv. There’s no way I would have had that approach. As someone who went to law school, I would have said, “Let’s crush ‘em.”
Obviously, the idea of saying “Yes, And,” thank to you guys, is marvelous, and very well known now. Hearing offers and really trying to listen is another thing. As I’ve studied this kind of stuff, what I think is so interesting about our schools is that we teach kids how to read, we teach kids how to write, but we just assume that everyone knows how to listen. And they don’t. We have eyes and we have ears and they allow us to process information from the external world. But the fact that I have eyes doesn’t mean that I can see. But if you have training as an art, as a visual artist or an art historian, something like that, you actually see the world differently, And I think that what we don’t do is train people’s ears enough. And no one has ever taught anybody, except if you take improv, how to listen.