Working Improvisation into the Work That You Do

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Kupe Kupersmith talks with Dorothy Mhlanga about the art of improvisation, and why it’s one of the most valuable techniques you can work into your work.

Kupe, Founder of KupeTalks, is an author, keynote speaker, coach and a trained improv actor. Some think Broccoli & Cheetos is an odd combination, but you will be delighted with Kupe’s combination of laughter and learning.

What is your favourite business analysis technique and what is it that you love/value about it?

Improvisation skills are a set of techniques anyone performing business analysis must possess and keep practicing. Being a skilled improviser gives you an uncanny ability to listen, be flexible, connect with your team members and be a sought after team member. Applying improv skills is a mindset in how you approach every situation you are in. Don’t worry, you don’t need to be funny to be a great applied improviser. 

In which situations or at which point in the business analysis process do you typically use this technique?

All the time, this is why it is my favourite. Whether you are eliciting information, trying to influence others, negotiating about priorities, collaborating with others, and even being able to keep an open mind while analysing data you have collected, you are improvising.

My hope is that everyone reading this starts to apply improv today because you can use it forever. You may not use a User Story later in your career. I guarantee you will use improv. 

How is improvisation particularly helpful and relevant for business and project stakeholders?

Every business and project stakeholder you work with wants you to be approachable, flexible, creative, open-minded, and trustworthy. So they will want you on every team if you start to apply improv skills. And, just think about a world where your business stakeholders and project team members start to emulate your behaviour. There will be no limit to the uber high performance your team can accomplish.

Why do you choose this technique over other techniques that can achieve similar results?

The thing about improv skills is you use them all the time, and in conjunction with other techniques to enhance them.

They help improve team communication and collaboration in these following ways and more: build relationships, strengthen negotiating and influencing skills, encourage critical thinking, exhibit strong leadership, inject humour into meetings, gain buy-in, earn trust and make timely, informed decisions

What advice do you have for other people using the improvisation technique? Do you have any tips to make improvisation spectacular?

The key is practice. I performed improv comedy for a decade. I use the improv mindset now every day. And, I am still learning and getting better.

This is not a technique that you learn and then become a master. It is one you need to think about all the time until it becomes second nature. It becomes a part of who you are.

Part of applying improv is being OK with failure. On stage, we failed all the time. Little failures along the way until we got the big laugh. For you, the big laugh is a great relationship, a creative idea, a breakthrough on a project. You will fail along the way. Don’t stop…keep moving forward until you get the “big laugh”.

Infusing Design Thinking to Drive Idea Generation’ with Kupe Kupersmith was first published in the Inter-View Report 2017

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About Dorothy Mhlanga

Dorothy Mhlanga is a consultant at Saratoga specialising in business analysis, whose main areas of interest are system design and agile project delivery.

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