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What is Your Purpose with Your People?

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Can You Articulate Your “Why?” and “What for?”03042014-URBimp2

I’ve been gushing over Improv Wisdom lately, this 2005 book by Patricia Ryan Madson. I’m thinking of buying a number of copies to give away and wondering how I can incorporate it as a supplemental text in my next classes. The book is easy to read, memorable and full of actionable wisdom all directed at staying in the moment and building something with others. Ms. Madson—a drama professor at Stanford, improv maniac, eager collaborator and kind-hearted encourager—brings a lot of life to how we can work with others. Now I find myself ordering the primary source texts cited by Ms. Madson.

Ms. Madson has been kind enough to respond to my tweeted epiphanies when reading her book. I am impressed by the longevity and timeliness of certain ideas. Ms. Madson’s 2005 book will likely be relevant for a long, long time.

As I finish with my Social Media Marketing class, I’m reading reflections from the students. One near universal regret was not having a clearer sense of their purposes for the communities they were trying to create. We spent focused time on this early on in the class, but forming a crystal clear picture of what we want to accomplish with others is neither easily understood nor often practiced. I know this from the number of companies I’ve been in that operated every day without a clear sense of what they were trying to do with their audiences.

Students resist the tightly-formed purpose and the close definition of their audience because it feels so restrictive. It just feels easier to write anything for everyone. At least that’s how the class always starts. But at the end of the class, there are multiple confessions about how the tight purpose and close definition actually freed them to say much, much more to their target audience. This experience fits with a bit of improv wisdom Ms. Madson offered:02262014-Cover-burgundy

Rather than asking “What do I feel like doing?” when a free moment arises, instead ask “What is my purpose?

I love this question for my class and I love this question personally. The question presupposes I have a purpose and assumes I know that purpose. The question assumes I am conversant with my purpose and assumes I am in the habit of articulating it to myself and others.

All these presuppositions and assumptions are worth pursuing. Going back to our purpose again and again sounds like bearing fruit over a lifetime.

And this: Patricia Ryan Madson should write more books.


Image credit: imgur

5 Responses

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  1. Okay, you’ve got me. Your kind essay reminds me that my book is out there working my purpose, which is to be helpful, useful. Books have a life and can move through time and space and provide encouragement and hope. Thank you, thank you for caring enough to prompt me to write. Good advice.


    March 4, 2014 at 11:21 am

  2. Yeah!


    March 4, 2014 at 11:24 am

  3. Hahaha that gif is funny!

    Rob Moses

    March 4, 2014 at 9:34 pm

  4. […] and Edgar Schein are moving this science forward—along with many others. I am fond of the work Patricia Ryan Madson has done around Improv, which seems the perfect gateway for anyone to learn the fun of […]

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