Boomers vs Millennials

Yes, different generations have different working styles.

Nothing like a good set of stereotypes to build walls in companies, is there?

A recent AP article by Matt Sedensky focuses on “training” by “experts” that bridges the gap all the way from the “Silent Generation” to the latest unnamed, and as yet, un-pigeon-holed generation.

Employees are taught about the characteristics that define each generation, from their core values to their childhood and adolescent experiences to the type of figures they regard as heroes. Then workshop leaders typically drill down into how those attributes play into the strengths and weaknesses each age group offers on the job.

Read the article. Look at the picture.

Nothing breaks down barriers like sitting in a classroom behind tables set in rows while someone lectures you on stereotypes. (This was sarcasm.)

Maybe we should try experiential learning that shows you who the actual people you work with are, what they care about and how they communicate best. We call it Applied Improvisation.

Improvisation brings a mindset that everyone can use, from the “Silent Generation” to teens – even pre-teens.

We need to be learning new tools, and learning about the people we work with, not the generalizations that someone drilled out of research or popular culture. Let’s go!


Patrick Short thinks his 94 year-old mother is part of the “Greatest Generation”, because there is no way she’s part of a “Silent Generation”.


Improv Connects to Social Media for Companies

As more and more people become aware that improvisation has something to bring to companies, the questions start to get more specific.

How do we apply this stuff? How do we justify spending money on improvisation training?

Previous posts have explored:

Now, a blog piece from social marketer Kelly Jo Horton ties improvisational skills to how companies manage their social media – image, customer service and more.

You need people who live to find ways to collect, segment and report on data. You obviously need good storytellers. And you need that “secret sauce” that can’t be taught in a college course but comes from life experience and maybe, just maybe, taking an improv class.

Kelly sums it up with these bullet points:

  • Say. “Yes, and…”
  • Listen to your audience
  • Improv is a 2-way conversation
  • Improv artists fail 20% of the time
  • You are never in complete control

She also gives our organization a nice shout out. Much appreciated. She learned well, and in turn, is teaching people well.

One more thing: to effectively implement the improvisational mindset, you do not have to be a public-performance level improv “artist”. Anyone can think this way – they just need the door opened for them.

Improvisation plays an important role in corporate social media. Read Kelly’s blog piece here.

Patrick Short taught the ComedySportz 101 class that Kelly Jo Horton took 10 years ago. His next class kicks off September 9th, 2013. Many other CSz players have taught her since then in our Farm Team classes. CSz is in 24 cities, and we can find a space for you, too. Find a ComedySportz City near you. Tweet us @comedysportzPDX.

The Sounds of Silence

This is a very difficult concept for some people, and I am well aware that it applies to me.

Sometimes, we just have to stop talking and let other people teach us what we need to know.

At some point in their careers, stage improvisors have usually experienced the sense of panic and doom when there is silence in a scene, and silence in the audience. We’re taught to embrace the silence, but achieving that level of calm takes time – and agreement from the rest of your team.

Of course there’s a connection to business!

Drake Baer writes in Fast Company that if you want to get ahead, you have to stop and listen.

“This is also something you learn in journalism school: that during an interview you don’t need to fill the space with your questions. If a source finishes her sentence, but doesn’t answer your question, you can let the silence hang–and the elaboration will (most likely) follow.” What works for journalists also works in sales.

We most often associate salespeople with fast-talking, manipulative methods. That’s why most salespeople drive us nuts. The best salespeople listen, both to hear what the customer really wants and how they want it sold to them. If you are patient, your customer will help you by elaborating. Being a good, focused listener also helps the client realize that they are in a partnership.

An exercise we use in our Applied Improvisation training, called First Letter, Last Letter, has participants in a dialogue where the first word anyone can use starts with the same letter as the last letter of the last word their partner used. In addition to finding out who struggles with spelling (not important) and who likes to make life difficult for their partner by constantly ending in the same letter or using x a lot (which could be a more important insight), participants are pushed by the game format into listening all the way to the end of their partners’ statements. Instead of deciding on a response and waiting to speak, the partners listen with intensity and focus – and hear things they would have otherwise missed. During our debrief of the exercise, I’ve frequently heard people say, “I really felt listened to!”

And while a source for Baer’s article says that ” ‘You learn nothing by saying something,’ since, by definition, you already know what you’re going to say.” I don’t think that’s entirely true. Many people solidify what they know, place things in memory and test theories by telling them to others. That’s absolutely the way my storytelling family works. Don’t immediately judge those who talk a lot – they may just be learning with you.

Respect that. Listen. Be a good partner.

Here is the article from Fast Company.

Patrick Short is one of those people who learns by talking, but he also learned to stay as quiet as possible on sales calls and maintains a pretty good closing ratio.