Friday Book Review: Getting to “Yes, And” by Bob Kulhan & Chuck Crisafulli

pid_25618In the early morning of May 2, 2011, a team of Navy SEALS invaded a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan and killed Osama Bin Laden. As author Bob Kulhan writes in his book, Getting to “Yes And”: The Art of Business Improv, “the mission had been meticulously planned: the SEALS trained for it over months and several contingency plans were developed and put into place.” Unfortunately, during the raid, one of the team’s helicopters crashed. In addition, “the SEALS discovered that the intelligence they’d based their plans on was not entirely accurate,” he writes. “There were a number of unknown variables (how many people they would encounter, the types of people, the weapons, the doors and hallways, etc.). So they had to improvise.”

The Osama Bin Laden raid may seem a surprising choice as the first case study to appear in a book written by a veteran stage performer and alumni of the famed improvisational troupe Second City. The story underscores, however, Kulhan’s point that the techniques of improvisation are valuable and important in any domain.

Much More Than Laughs

The building blocks of improvisation, Kulhan writes, are reacting, adapting and communicating — building blocks that are equally valuable in dealing with uncertainty or the unexpected. “Improvisation,” he explains, “is a key element of busy emergency rooms; it takes place on NBA basketball courts; it’s a part of the skill set for every policeman cruising the streets — all contexts in which comedy is certainly not intended to be part of the picture.”

As for business, Kulhan writes, “the same skills that make for exceptional comedic improvisation — intense listening, focus, energy, engagement, teamwork, authenticity, adaptability — are skills that any businessperson can use to make positive changes in the workplace.” Improvisation, Kulhan argues persuasively, is clearly not just “making stuff up” to be funny.

Getting to “Yes And” explores how to apply improvisational skills to the business arena. In detailed and grounded chapters, Kulhan shows how improvisation can be applied to personal development, communication, team building, leadership and changing a corporate culture.

The first step, however, is to understand…(click here to continue reading)