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Posts Tagged ‘Improv Wisdom

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

Can A Question Trump A Script?

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Don’t Prepare. Just Show Up. Improv Wisdom by Patricia Ryan Madson

A confession: it’s hard for me to break free from notes when speaking.

Maybe notes are a crutch. But I think there is more to it. I spend my days writing so I have an affection and affinity for words on pages. And this: there is specificity to writing that is not quite so available for speaking. It’s a specificity that allows me to work an idea and move the parts around even as I deliver that idea to my audience.

Speaking does not allow that.

Or so I thought.

Patricia Ryan Madson’s Improv Wisdom is helping me see things differently. This well-written, easily digestible book (NY: Bell Tower, 2005) is full of all manner of notes about how to move off the page. In particular I’m struck by how Ms. Madson deftly turned scripted notes into an opportunity for spontaneity. 02262014-Cover-burgundyCheck out the photo below, where she reformats scripted remarks into a series of prompts—questions—that result in something alive and conversational versus the usual bad voice-over quality that comes from reading a script.

The result of her work and approach is spot on with all we’re trying to do at Conversation is an Engine: live out loud with each other, mistakes and passions all available to each other as we show up. Day after day.

Here’s Ms. Madson speaking at Google (Authors@Google) on her notion of just showing up. I cannot help but notice that she put lots and lots of time preparing before she just showed up. Plus: I am completely taken with Ms. Madson’s willingness to make mistakes in public.

Patricia Ryan Madson may be my new aural hero.





Written by kirkistan

February 26, 2014 at 8:44 am

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