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 Dynamic Leadership: Using Improvisation in Busines  posted by  duggu   on 12/8/2007  Add Courseware to favorites Add To Favorites  
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Balachandra, Lakshmi, 15.969 Dynamic Leadership: Using Improvisation in Business, Fall 2004. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare), (Accessed 11 Jul, 2010). License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

Students practice and master improvisation tools in leadership learning.

Students practice and master improvisation tools in leadership learning by presenting to the class. (Image courtesy of Vicky S and stock.xchng.)

Course Highlights

This course features video clips of student presentations and a full readings list.

Course Description

The first two weeks of this course are an overview of performing improvisation with introductory and advanced exercises in the techniques of improvisation. The final four weeks focus on applying these concepts in business situations to practice and mastering these improvisation tools in leadership learning.

Special Features

  • Sample video lectures

Technical Requirements

RealOne™ Player software is required to run the .rm files found on this course site.



Course Overview


The first two weeks will be an overview of performing improvisation with introductory and advanced exercises in the techniques of improvisation. The final four weeks will be applying these concepts in business situations to practice and master these improvisation tools in leadership learning.

Course Readings

The readings are all listed in the readings section. Each reading is important as we'll be doing exercises based on their content. This means: you will be expected to talk about the material. Be prepared.


We have been asked by MIT's OpenCourseWare initiative to post our classes on the site. If you don't mind getting your 15 seconds of academic fame, I urge you to sign the release so that you will be part of this historic academic effort. They will start taping the second week of class.

Grading Policies


This course is highly participatory. We have only 13 classes. You need to attend every class.


There is one paper and one group exercise for this class. Both of which are extremely easy and will be merely graded by a check or check plus. You must complete both to pass this class.

Class Participation

Last and certainly not least, as previously mentioned, this course is highly participatory. If you are afraid of public speaking, this class is definitely for you! I will be cold calling - and you will be cold calling each other. To be quite frank: there is no possible way for you to get out of participating in this class. 


1 Introduction and Overview: Fundamentals of Improvisation

What is Improvisation?

a) History
b) Methods

Overview of Course

a) Review of Primary Colors reading - how the skill of 'reading an audience' separates 'Leaders' from 'Managers' - How improvisation will help you with this understanding

Course Objectives

a) Not to be funny
b) Understand and experience leadership as reacting
c) Learn what we are like in leadership situations: What works, what's less effective, what are our personal warning signals - when do we not react well?
d) Take Risks: Only people that take risks can become true leaders
e) Lose your sensitivity - learn how to openly share feedback


a) "10 Rules of Improv"
b) Why these rules exist and how we must follow them to master reacting
c) Understanding how improvisation works
d) Teamwork implications - how business = working together
2 Improvisation Methodology (cont.)  
3 Introduction and Learning Fundamentals of Improvisation (cont.)

Begin understanding how to read your audience + win people over

Learning about yourself - Leader's 'EQ' (Goldman Article)

a) What have you learned about yourself: 1. pitfalls, goals, etc, and 2. what you need to develop or manage in yourself
b) Workplace environments
c) Exploring different simple scenarios
4 Introduction of Leadership Learning from Improvisation

Not New Ideas - "Listening to People" Article

Applying Improvisation to MBA Life
Group project introduction and final paper assignment
5 Workplace Scenarios and 'Being the Leader'

Begin Discussion of leadership - Leadership Model at MIT Sloan

Why improvisation tools create a path to gaining skills and attributes of leadership

Leadership and Improvisation Exploration Modules

Module 1: Inventing

a) The Leader as Creativity Cultivator: Creativity? How to manage a creative process using improvisation - and learn why it's effective
6 Leadership Situations - Improvisational Understanding

Module 2: Sensemaking

a) The Leader and Controlling the Situation: Interviewing - learning the influence of 'who has the power' in situations and how you deal with it
b) The Leader Furthering His/Her Message: Expert Q & A - furthering the expert talker concept to deliver your message regardless of the questions you face and unknown ideas that you may come across
7 Public Speaking and Networking Exploration - How Improvising Determines Leadership Portrayed

Reading Audiences: Welcome Audience vs. Hostile Audience

Leadership Model (cont.)

Module 3: Visioning

a) The Leader as the Expert: Expert Talker - exploring how to 'act' as if you are the expert; utilizing confidence and your own expertise to carry you through difficult situations
8 Networking + People Skills in Leadership

Module 4: Relating

a) The Leader as Effective Networker: 1. Networking Scenarios "The Dating Game" - learning to read body language, and how to win people over quickly, and 2. Cocktail Party 101 - rules of networking - applying them in difficult or challenging situations
b) The Leader as a Persuasive Salesperson: How to 'react' - various welcome vs. unwelcome characters and how to read them and handle them appropriately, always moving towards achieving your personal goals
b) The Leader as Approachable: Stand-up Comedy 101…- the art of telling a joke, when and where to use? Why is this type of persona and skill helpful for leadership situations? When is it not?
9 The Improvising CEO

Synthesizing Improv Techniques + Experiencing Different Leadership Scenarios: Sales for new business, pitching to investors, motivating their employees, speaking on panels, guest speaking at conferences, networking at meetings or impromptu moments, running board meetings, pitching new releases/company updates

Leadership Model: Tying it All Together

Understand Who You are as a CEO (Building Your Own 'Change Signature')

Learning What Works

Learn how to Improve/Define 'You as a CEO'

a) What are 'leader desired attributes'
b) Trying on different leadership 'characterizations'
c) How the reactions vary
10 Final Understanding - Improvisational Leadership + Projecting YOU Staying in Control: Keeping the Leader's Persona

Salesman - Approachable/Persuasive Salesman

Press Conference - Persuasive Salesman/Furthering His/Her Message

Board Meetings - Controlling the Situation/ Expert/ Networker/ Approachable

VC Pitches - Controlling the Situation/ Expert/ Networker/ Approachable
11 Group Presentations: Final Presentations and Review

a) You, the Leader, The Improviser…
b) Understanding of not only how to do things but who you are
c) Learning to develop who and what you to project in any situation
d) Takeaways of how to implement the image you want to convey
Final presentations due
12 Wrapping it Up

Understanding how to use this framework for improvisation in leadership at MIT Sloan and beyond
Final paper (1-5 pages) due   Tell A Friend