Getting to Yes, And

Neil Mullarkey: In the Moment


Neil Mullarkey

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Kelly connects with Neil Mullarkey, who began his comedy career with Mike Myers, improvised with London's Comedy Store Players, and applied his knowledge of improv to the world of business management training. He has a new book, “In the Moment: Build Your Confidence, Communication and Creativity at Work.”

Definitions of improv are sometimes a hard thing to explain to the uninitiated.

“There was a funny thing as I was giving a workshop at a London business school once, and I was 15 minutes into the improvisation as a practice section. And this guy, whose English was not his first language, says, ‘So, do you mean lying?’ I could see his logic that improv or making it up is lying, but I will say improv is a practice which has a lot in common with other improvised forms of art, jazz being perhaps the easiest to read across. But art as well. Where there is structure there is practice. Yes, we're making it up. But the apparent chaos is looking for emergent structure. We are trying to find structure within the chaos. We're not trying to make it messy and unformed. We're constantly creating form where we can. And for me the greatest form is story along the way within our funny moments - even occasionally a joke, but sometimes a joke spoils the story.”

How do you talk to business people about the usefulness of improvisation?

"We open by saying we know nothing. We have only ourselves and you to create. There is no script. We are going to co-create that. And so very often, when I say to business people, ‘Has anyone improvised?’ For them, it's what you do when things go wrong. For me, Improv is what you do to make things go right, whatever ingredients you have. And that to me is the joy of improv as an interpersonal skill. I've never met you. I have a conversation with you. Or I do know you. We've worked together before, but let's still try and find a creative conversation. Improv is a mindset within a world that is changing. Things happen I didn't expect. Improv is how you can live in that world of uncertainty and ambiguity.”

In addition to improvisation, you also point out the benefits of humor for individuals and organizations.

“I do have a whole section of a chapter on humor in the book and I try and point out that the best humor is the humor we all share. When the leader says, ‘I don't know what to do’ or ‘Look at what a mess I made of it, you know, when I was young and I came through it.’ So, ultimately, I describe to people that, yeah, we're being funny; we play at the Comedy Store; but the thing we're aiming towards is story: both the story of the scene, but also the story of 6 people having fun together, and even the story of that person in the audience who made that suggestion early on and keeps making the same suggestion over and over again.”

Photo Credit: Image 1st

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