Practice English Speaking&Listening with: COVID-19 Webinar Series - Shtick to Innovation

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Hello everyone and thank you for joining us my name is Amanda Kramer and I am the

Alumni Engagement Program Manager at the University of Colorado Boulder Leeds

School of Business. these are certainly trying times and we have gathered our

world-renowned faculty and alumni to provide frank and timely insights for

life during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Today is the fourth

and final webinar in this coab in nineteen related webinar series

additional COVID-19 related webinars are forthcoming so stay tuned

for more information next week. For today's webinar were excited to have

Leeds marketing professor Dr. Peter McGraw here presenting on stick to

innovation what the masters of comedy can teach you about getting through a

crisis in building a serious career. A few housekeeping items before we begin

first if you have any questions now or during the presentation that you would

like to ask Peter please send a question through the chat interface we will

monitor questions as they are submitted and Peter will respond to them at a

point within his presentation. A reminder for optimum audio quality we do

have everyone on muted except for myself and our speaker. If you experience any

technical difficulties during the webinar please notify us through the

chat interface and one of our support specialists will touch base. Lastly a

link to access the webinar recording will be sent to all registrants tomorrow

along with a survey link and supplemental resources from today's

presentation now I would like to introduce today's speaker Dr. Peter

McGraw is a behavioral economist professional speaker and expert on the

scientific study of humor as a marketing professor at the Leeds School of Business

here at the University of Colorado his work has been covered by the New York

Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, BBC, Time, CNN, Wired and Harvard Business Review. He

speaks at Fortune 500 companies public events and universities around

the world and he has spent more than 10 years answering the question what makes

things funny. To do so he founded the humor research lab which goes by the

acronym HURL you can read about his worldwide expedition exploring comedy in

his book the humor code a global search for what makes things funny he joins us

today to talk about his new book and present Shtick to Innovation

what the Masters of Comedy can Teach you About Getting Through a Crisis and

Building a Serious Career. welcome Peter and thank you so much for

being here I'm going to hand the webinar controls over to you now.

Thank You Amanda I so it probably should say I used to speak at fortune 500

companies and universities around the world because no one is doing that right

now I also I also enjoyed the that you spelled out the acronym HURL for the

humor research lab so you you missed a chance for a little bit of a punchline.

Okay hello everyone it's great to not see you but to be seen I know I have a

lot of friendly faces in the audience thank you for being on time if you were

a former student you know how important tardy but not being tardy is to me so

let me just get started as I said I'll I'll answer some questions along the way.

We've got some fun polls and so on I've pivoted this talk obviously to be

pandemic related and you know with millions of people stuck at home dealing

with stress and uncertainty you certainly can can rely on comedians that

is you know people making jokes about getting to the end of Netflix and

running out of stand-up specials and anybody who's familiar with the Tiger

King have seen endless memes. You know as I like to say these are delightful

distractions and for for the world's funniest people you know we're thankful

to them to be able to provide us for moments of levity in times in this sort

of time of crisis. So I want to say is that these funny people

all these people I've been studying for more than 10 years can help us do more

than cope that is that we can learn from them because comedians don't only do a

good good job coping with uncertainty that they go as far as thriving on chaos

so let me explain I'll give you an example of this so if you're familiar

with Nassim Taleb. Nassim Taleb is a former bond trader turned scholar and

kind of all-around curmudgeon and i know that Rich Wobegon talked about his work

in one of the previous webinars. He wrote a book called the Black Swan and in it

he he talks about events like the one we're dealing with now these is very

difficult to predict yet profound situations they can be positive but of

course we care when they're mostly when they're negative and so this pandemic is

one of those black swans and Talib makes the argument and I tend to agree with it

is that because it's so hard to model. Black swans these rare but profound

events we should stop trying to predict them but we should be prepared for an

uncertain future for a future that is that is quite challenging and so in his

follow-up book Anti-Fragile he put he puts forth these sort of three states of

the world that entities may may be in one of those is is the person the

organism the entity the organization that's fragile that is a black swan

comes along and and wipes it out right this is the this is the wineglass that

gets dropped on the ground the next the next one is something that's robust and

we're gonna launch a poll here asking you which of these three that I'll get

through or it best describes your situation now.

The robust is like the Phoenix that is affected by by calamity by chaos by

uncertainty but rises again it's like a steel bar it bends but it doesn't break

and then there's this is his term the anti-fragile that is the entity that

gets not only able to cope with this bad situation but actually becomes stronger

as a result of this. So for example the Hydra the mythical mythological being

that has one has its head has a head chopped off and to grow in its place is

anti-fragile. My argument is that comedians as well as divorce lawyers

unfortunately our anti-fragile that is that they get better they get positive

results from bad things happening now I think that it's it's pretty impossible

for the average person to ever reach anti-fragile status again. As I said

unless you're in one of these weird worlds where you benefit from chaos but

what I want to do is start to push you out of living a fragile life and living

a robust life even if it's not going to help you day to day right now it's

something to gear up for for the next Black Swan that occurs. So I'll give you

example of a comedians anti fragility so Richard Pryor is one of the better you

know top 5 stand-up comics ever some people consider him the greatest in a

psychosis induced state freebasing cocaine He pours rum on himself lights

himself on fire he's given a 25% 30% chance to live survives and turns that

terrible experience not only into a stand-up show assuming a stand-up movie

Live on Sun on the Sunset Strip in which he talks about his challenges with

with drug abuse he also turns it into a movie

Jo Jo Dancer Your Life is Calling. The great Mitch Hedberg talked about how

the more he's up the better his career would get now I really believe that this

situation and so what I invite you to do is to to think about you know where are

you right now how do you feel about this kind of situation is this the situation

which is throwing you completely into disarray or is this going to be

something that is problematic for the moment but you'll be able to resume a

good solid life afterwards in short I think this is a call to action and I

want to talk to you a little bit about what we can learn from these excuse me

anti-fragile people okay so what why me and why comics so so as Amanda was

saying you know I've spent my days teaching MBA students and my nights

decoding comedy I've been doing that for for many years now my first book the

Humor Code took me all around the world with a Denver based journalist Joel

Warner we went to Tanzania and investigated a laughter epidemic we

spent time with with Japanese comics in their greenroom of those crazy Japanese

game shows went to the Amazon and clowned with Patch Adams went to

Palestine to look at humor where you least expect it. And this new book is

really connecting the work that I've done being focused on businesses and

then also learning from the practices and perspectives of these very very

funny people that is that comedians have one of the most difficult jobs in the

world producing laughs on command and yet they make it look easy. And and it's

not based upon just natural talent sure they have some natural talent but but

being funny on a regular basis is about a special understanding of

of business frankly no shake the business wasn't built as a book to help

you get through a pandemic but what I'm finding is that some of the lessons are

really quite useful and so I'm gonna take you through a few of those lessons

before we open it up to to Question and Answer. Okay so the first lesson is

called reverse it and and reverses is the first chapter in the book and it's

comedy 101 if comics sort of intuitively know to think in reverse if they don't

they figure it out pretty fast and if you don't learn to think in Reverse

you're not going to get very far as a comic. So Henny Youngman, the king of the

one-liners, said when I read about the dangers of drinking I gave up that's

right reading alright so this is a reversal

used to create a punchline an old punchline but still a solid one

and it can also a reversal producing an opposing perspective can also be used to

create a premise whether it being sketch comedy television movies and so on so

for example that the movie Trading Places which still holds up pretty well

today in it day and Aykroyd plays a wealthy banker and Eddie Murphy plays a

street hustler they end up trading places in hilarity ensues. More recently

in the Amy Schumer rom-com with Bill Hader trainwreck is a reverse rom-com so

the typical rom-com is boy meets girl boy loses girl boy gets girl back train

wrecks exactly the same way except for the woman placed a stereotypical male

role and the man plays the stereotypical female role and as I said you know a

great a great way to create premises now what's fascinating is when you're able

to think in reverse it can also it can also provide creative

ideas for your professional and personal life that is it's not always going to to

reward you with a great idea but when it does it's usually going to be to be

creative so I'll give you a couple quick examples of this so for pretty much as

long as the the fitness and diet industry has existed there has been a

focus on making losing weight and getting fit easy and as a result because

of this focus on easiness you get ridiculous products like toning shoes

you get eight-minute abs and you get the shake weight now the the

sick weight is a completely ridiculous product but it made I think 40 million

dollars in sales during its tenure it's just really create really really crazy

now the fitness industry saw a real reversal with the launch of p90x so p90x

is hard like it's really really hard it's six days a week up to 90 minutes of

workouts things like the ab ripper and hardcore calisthenics this basically are

hit workouts before anyone was doing hit workouts and so um Tony Horton who

launched p90x engaged in a reversal everybody's trying to make Fitness easy

he goes in the opposite direction making it as difficult a path as possible and

as a result also getting really great results

p90x is worth two hundred million dollars for its parent company Beachbody.

Imagine your two brooklyn-based entrepreneurs you're considering the

smartphone market you want to launch a new product how can you outsmart Apple

and Samsung in the smartphone market that seems pretty impossible and so what

do these guys do why everybody's going smart they go dumb this is the light

phone - aka the dumb phone in which they stripped away almost all of the

attributes of the typical phone leaving behind calls texts basic

navigation an alarm and so on fulfilling the need for people who not want to be

more connected but rather want to be less connected - probably something we

could all use right now as we're spending too much time looking at the

news and social media all the time. Last example is marketing communications are

really built on trying to convince people to prop buy product to move

product to say good things about your your brand Patagonia a number of years

ago launched a don't buy campaign in a in a world of sustainability all these

outdoors companies are trying to show that they're sustainable well

Patagonia walks the talk by asking people to think twice before they buy a

packet like like this one taking people through how how damaging creating

apparel is for the environment ironically sales surged during this time

so one of the things I do with corporate

clients in terms of trying to work through thinking in Reverse I do a task

that I call shit storming or the HR friendly term stick short storming stick

storming in which I ask people to brainstorm truly terrible ideas so if

you if you want some more instruction on how to do this you can go to

www.PeterMcGraw,org and you can get a download a free download for

the Shtick to Business workbook and I have a sh*t storming task in there but the

cool thing about about doing this is is first of all it overcomes one of the

major problems associated with brainstorming which is a tendency to

self-censor to be concerned that what you're going to say is stupid but in

sh*t storming your your job is to come up with truly truly truly terrible ideas

and so it's not really that big a deal if you don't come up with an idea that's

not terrible enough it also serves as a really good warm-up for a a regular

brainstorming task because it's really fun it gets the creative juices flowing

and then lastly what I think is really the best part about it is that it gives

you an opportunity to come up with an idea that you that was meant to be bad

but when you look at it you go you know what that sounds crazy but it might

actually work okay so in the book constrictive business I have these

sections called develop your shtick which is designed to apply some of the the

lessons in the book. If you're applying the lesson of the reversal to what's

going on right now I think one of the obvious things is to be aware of what's

called the negativity bias this tendency to be really focused on the bad things

in life that is bad things capture our emotions and our attention much more

than good things and so it's just very easy to get down into a spiral in a

situation like this so what I do what I would do is invite you to think in

Reverse right so stuck at home obviously for

many people that can be a bad thing how do you make it good look this is a good

time to spend quality time with family to do all those tasks that I've been

meaning to and putting off because I just never am around never have enough

time I know that there's a lot of career concerns right now there are people

who's whose work is being being jeopardized businesses are being

jeopardized and so on how do you reverse this good I need a change anyways I

hated commuting to that office park no my my business wasn't going as well as I

wanted to anyways this is going to force me to double down and to think

creatively about how to to do this better I'm scared I'm fearful I'm scared

of this illness well what is the best best cure for this illness is your

immune system that is that that really the big hero in this pandemic is our

peoples immune systems that is the people are recovering from this good I'm

gonna focus on my health and well-being so I always ask my my students is your

health number one? I think this is a nice reminder about how important it is to

make health number one okay second lesson this one comes out of of chapter

4 it's called cooperate to innovate and so

I've thrown around the term creativity so far and creative endeavors result in

what I call an original appropriate solution alright so so think about it

right so you're trying to solve a problem a creative solution to that

problem is appropriate it solves the problem and its original that is no one

else is doing it and there's great value on novelty in joke writing that is

comics have to pursue creativity not only to write jokes that no one else has

written before but they can't rely on their old joke so they have their con

suddenly having to to come up with with new creative solutions so original and

appropriate now what happens is we have this tendency to say oh that person's a

genius when that when they're highly creative and that may be the case when

it comes when it comes to an idea but an innovation is the execution of a

creative idea and that is that it's one thing to have the idea it's another

thing to actually put it into motion and to put it out in their world and

actually solve the problem now when it comes to innovation it's very rare to

find a lone genius there's usually other people involved in little or even really

big ways that do this and so what ends up happening is in order to to execute

you need to rely on other people so in order to do that I think that one of the

things that that comedians do very very well is that they listen well so we're

gonna have another poll up here I think where we where I ask you about your

listening abilities so so let's take improv for it for an example so an

improvisational comedy people are creating a scene out of nothing so when

two people walk out onto the stage they're just have a little kernel of an

idea and they're creating an entire scene out of this this is very difficult

to do and it relies on a series of underlying rule rules one of which is is

the importance of listening so imagine how this goes these two people come out

on stage one person's talking the other person is ready to respond but that

person has like a hundred things going on in their head they're thinking about

it stuff that happened in previous scenes they're thinking about what

they're going to say next but they also have to be

listening to that other person because if they go and say we're on Mars and the

other person had just said we're in a hospital now the scene blows up and it

doesn't work out and so the rule but listening places is just so incredibly

important in terms of executing something even stand-up comics rely on

listening they they listen to their fellow comics in terms of getting punch

ups and ideas for how to improve their bits they're listening to the audience

reactions when they've been testing out jokes. That is when whenever they launch

a stand-up special none of those jokes are new they know exactly how well those

jokes land because they've been paying attention to their audiences there that

even a stand-up needs others in order to innovate. Another idea from improv that I

like a lot and this one I think is more important than ever especially if you're

sequestered at home with family is this notion that we are all supporting actors.

So Dell Close the one of the fathers of Improv talks about this idea and and if

you've ever been to an improv show there's probably a chance that someone

on that stage just stood out so go ahead and take the opportunity to vote okay

bad terrible terribly awfully bad and what did you say so we'll give you a

couple of seconds here being cheeky obviously with that poll

looks like OK by a landslide all right then I should have put fantastic in

there to see how people would do so this idea that we're all supporting actors I

think is really great because if you go to an improv show there there's someone

on stage who just seems like a genius you're just like why is this person

hanging out with these clowns like they're so good they should you know

move to LA and and become a movie star but if you go to that show week in and

week out what's interesting is the star will often rotate it'll be someone else

the next week and someone else the next week and the reason for that is because

every member The Improv team is trying to make

everybody else in the on the team the star they all serve as a supporting

actor and so when you focus on being that supporting actor I think really

good things happen because you're not just asking about what you need you're

asking about what everybody else needs. As part of my it's part of the book and

it's part of my podcast I'm not joking I had a chance to interview Billy Merritt

and Will Hines they're the they're both Braces Brigade improvisers and they they

have this book called pirate robot ninja and in it they present this taxonomy of

improvisers so there's the the pirates like the kind of tornados who are just

willing to jump into a scene and and get messy and then there's the robots which

are much more analytical and they're paying more attention to what's going on

they fill in the in the gaps and they keep the scene on on play and then the

the highest level is the ninja that's that's the improviser that's the expert

engine improviser who could be a pirate when the scene needs a pirate can be a

robot when the sea meets a robot but when I think the pirate no robot ninja

what what that suggests is that that a scene of all pirates is not a very good

scene it just goes off the rails and a scene excuse me yes the scene of all

part and a scene of all robots is just really boring like you need both pirates

and robots in a scene to make it work this is this underlines this notion of

how important diversity is when it comes to to innovating so this this picture

this is Merrill Markoe. Merrill Markoe oh it may be one of the funniest people you've

never heard of she is though she was a longtime writer and producer of The Late

Show with David Letterman or Late Night with David Letterman and and Merrill is is

in many ways the the genius behind the genius.

That is she came up with stupid pet tricks she came up with stupid human

tricks she had the insight that David Letterman wasn't a very good actor and

so she didn't want to put him in sketches so instead turned his his very

improper sort of impromptu style of comedy put him out into the street doing

these man on the street interviews in which he would shine. He had been a radio

DJ for many many years and could fill the air airwaves with with with lots of

comedy and conversation right so the idea that we have a tendency to look at

one person you look at Chapelle show one of the greatest sketch shows ever well

behind the scenes was Neal Brennan on Dave Chappelle's co-creator who helped

write all of these sketches and we often need other people and people who are

different than ourselves Merrill's quite different than David

Letterman even though they they ended up dating for for many many years

Neal Neal Brennan and and Dave Chappelle made this bi-racial producing team that

that lent itself to great racial comedy over the years something that's usually

very difficult to do so when you think about this idea of cooperate to innovate

you know this notion that that listening is really really important. So for

example as a as a manager there's a tendency to walk into a meeting facing a

problem tell the table here's our problem here's my solution what do you

think of it I encourage you to do the opposite is to come to the table with

the with the problem ask the table what you should do listen to all of those

responses before then presenting the response the solution that you are

considering by the time you've heard all those responses you may have a

completely different solution the importance of

of listening I think now more than ever is to ask a question who needs your help

who's trying to execute a creative solution how can you help them who can

you support how can you be a good supporting actor whether this be

personally and your in your friendships and your your romantic and familial life

or within your professional life asking people who needs the help and then

asking who do you need on your team that is recognizing that going it alone is

fine perhaps when it comes to a creative solution but when it comes to actually

executing that solution you may need help and it's okay to ask for help

pirates need robots robots need pirates are you the Merrill Marko

behind-the-scenes or you the David Letterman at the forefront okay so we

have another poll right now and this comes out of out of six which is work

hard or hardly work I had this instinct that for some of us were working harder

than ever and then some of us are stuck not working at all and watching lots of

of Netflix and so I'm curious for this group are you hardly working are you

working harder than ever are you working just as hard as before

you

all right so that's an interesting split so people are working just mostly

working as hard as before which my suspicion is they're working hard now

someone just said they're working differently which i think is a is a is a

correct insight and so some people have been thrown out of work are on furlough

other are are working even harder because they're having to retool all the

normal processes they have and and as I guess with the kind of group who's going

to come to a Wednesday webinar they're already hara high achievers I'm

sorry I'm seeing some of the funny chats but people are putting forward thank you

guys okay let's close this down and I close this I can okay so let me give you

some ideas from the Masters of comedy about this idea whether you're working

hard or hardly working and really the answer is it's not a choice you should

be doing both let me explain so obviously you know who

this is this is Jerry Seinfeld worth nearly a billion dollars much of his his

wealth has been generated from the television show Seinfeld it's easy to

forget this but at the time Seinfeld was probably the biggest show on television.

It's aged well it does well in syndication reruns and so on.

Jerry Seinfeld turned 65 recently you could think that he'd be just enjoying

retirement no the guy's taping comedians of carbs with Cobb coffee he's well he

was preparing for a actually just did a

stand-up what do you call that tour and so on and so forth um well I think we

can learn a lot from Jerry about how he approaches his craft that is so one

thing that Jerry does very very well is he protects his time he's very clear

about what is the most important tasks in order to be a great

comedian in his case obviously it's writing jokes so for example when he was

working on Seinfeld with Larry David when they were finalizing a script they

would go into the office and they would close and lock the door and no one was

able to interrupt them. No questions about costumes our set design or about

future episodes they would lock themselves away they were aware that

that script was the most important thing that was successful to the show and so

they would protect that time. they would also, excuse me, Jerry also grinds that

is he works on his craft every day so he has a saying don't break the chain and

the idea being that when he's preparing for a tour or stand-up special he gets

one of those big calendars those big like desktop calendars and every day

that he works on his jokes every day that he tests his jokes out at a club he

puts a big X through that day after three days in a row he has a chain and

those and that chain his goal is to not break it is to work on that joke writing

every single day because he knows how important that is for his success. But

Jerry also knows that he's not a machine that he can't just protect and grind

he's gonna burn out eventually he needs to have some relief and release from

this in his case when he was working on Seinfeld he would meditate every day

during lunch for 20 minutes and he atributes that meditation to the success

of the show he couldn't work the long hours he couldn't continue to be funny

and be his best person without a bit of positivity and meditation really can

help with that so when I was talking to Billy merit the improviser who came up

with the taxonomy that I was talking about earlier

he talks about how to become a great improviser and he says on Monday you

take your improv class on Tuesday you go watch improv shows on Wednesday you you

meet with your practice group and you work on your improv on Thursday you do

this drop in what's called an indie Jam where you just show up and there's just

people who take turns improvising on Friday you study non improv comedy you

you know you watch duck soup with the Marx Brothers you know you read David

Sedaris and so on and then he says on Saturday and Sunday you quote unquote go

to Europe not that you actually get on a plane and go to Europe but he goes you

take a break from comedy you go to a museum you go hiking you you read other

types of books you watch documentaries you do things that are going to be

pleasurable and that make you a more interesting improviser because improv is

built on being smart and knowing about about the world. And so I think that when

you are in this situation where suddenly your life is completely disrupted I

think this idea of protect grind and release is actually really really

important so so one of the things is very clear from the behavioral sciences

that is that that when you've had a disruption when you're coming back from

a vacation when you're taking a new job when you're sheltered at home is a very

good time to create new habits and so if you're been thinking about change in

your life now is a very good change time to be doing so what what I invite you to

do is to think about what are your most highly rewarded creative tasks this is

this comes from the Pareto Principle the 80/20 rule or 20% of the things that we

do we receive 80 percent of our reward so as an academic. For example that might

be teaching and writing papers figure out your most highly rewarded creative

tasks the things that translate most to the bottom line and then find time and

this is very important space to be most focused on those things in

other words if your phone doesn't need to be involved in that work throw it

away get rid of it put it in some other place

turn it off find a way to work distraction free I

don't know about you but I am seeing error rates through the roof

everybody's working distracted right now and they're making tons of errors and

then lastly once you've done that very focused work release yourself take a

break and find some healthy uplifting way to get some release go for a walk

try a new recipe read exercise spend time with people you care about even if

it's just talking on the phone but find a way to to be able to be your best self

in terms of your energy in terms of your health in terms of your well-being in

terms of your happiness because that good those good feelings feed back into

that protect the time positivity helps us be more creative okay so that's three

lessons I have one more if we have time but I want to do some mature things over

to Amanda she has some questions that folks may have been asking these are

some of the other lessons that are in that are in the book Amanda do we have

some questions I could try to answer yes absolutely.

Let's start with one from

Josh. Is there a fine line when using humor during COVID-19 and are there

certain principles we can use to determine when we should do?

so short

yeah. Thank You Josh so I've been getting a lot of calls from media types with

that very same question so as I started at the outset of this I think that we

can rely on comedy to help us cope with this situation one of the beautiful

things about about comedy is that it can help turn tragedy into levity now my

first thing is I always say to people where possible let's lean on the truly

funny people they tend to do it well they make fewer mistakes than we do but

if you're gonna if you're gonna make your own jokes about

I do agree that there's a fine line I think that there's a lot of people who

are sort of uncertain and bored but then there's a lot of people who are

terrified and really struggling with this situation and I think we should be

very careful about who is the target who is the victim of the joke comedians they

turn their bugs into features that is that they use self-deprecation they make

fun of themselves making fun of yourself is a it's usually a pretty safe place to

start and so what I often say is when when you have a situation where people

claim it's too soon it's not that it's often too soon it's the wrong target

it's the wrong victim so when I was working on the humor code with Joel

Warner one of the things that we found was that the the onion the satirical

newspaper had one of its most popular issues ever in like maybe 10 or 11 days

after 9/11 but what made that work so well was they made fun of the terrorists

they didn't make fun of of the people who might be suffering and so I would

say you know be cautious also be conscious who you're talking to it's

it's fine to sort of push the boundaries with the people who know you care about

you understand you it's another thing just to broadcast it into the world of

social media that's where things can get insensitive real quick okay Thank You

Josh great thank you.

We have another question here regarding timing from Jeff.

Timing seems to be critical to most comedians and great speakers if you have

a few tips on developing good timing.

mmm so yeah that's great thank you I you

know I think that the timing feels like one of those things that's kind of

instinctual but really it comes from listening so the reason the comics seem

to have such great comedic timing is it's one of the variables that they'll

adjust they're working through bits so for

example for example there's a tendency and intuition to wait and have a big fat

pause between a setup and a punch line the research that comes out of

linguistics suggests that's actually not the case but the way to figure out

whether you should pause or whether you should not pause when it comes to to

comedy is to see does the pause work or not work when telling a joke

so George Burns for example when he would perform he would puff on a stogie

he would have a cigar and he would use that cigar to kind of pay attention to

what's happening and use it for four important pauses to let you know

laughter die down for example and so I think that the timing ends up becoming

mostly a function of experimentation of thinking agile agile so to speak and the

other one is is being really focused on listening so so in the workbook I have

this improv task that it doesn't seem like a listening task but it really is a

listening task so this is prior to social distancing but what you do is you

get your team together and you form a circle and you have everybody put their

head down and close their eyes and you ask the group to count to 20 and so this

is really a challenge when it comes to timing so one person says 1 another

person says to you say 3 if 2 people say 4 at the same time you have to go back

to 1 and only once you get all the way up to 20 without 2 people over talking

over one another do you do it now what ends up happening is that ends up being

a task where you have to just be listening in a way that that that's

really counterintuitive but ends up really working in terms of that so

that's my advice in terms of trying to improve your timing is a lot of it comes

from practice and from listening thank

you. Great thank you. We have another question

from Brad.

Do you have advice on how to best manage your approach without being

viewed by co-workers or or your boss as being cocky arrogant or dismissive when

you use humor?

hmm so Thank You Brad so the whole premise of stick to business

is to not be funny at work that I might my original idea and actually had given

some talks on humor and leadership was that I originally was going to teach

people how to be better at being funny in order to get ahead in business and

then I started to realize that that's a very difficult advice to give a broad

audience of people and the reason is not everyone's good at comedy and and

frankly comedy is really not the most important solution to people's most

pressing professional problems as I was saying like we can rely on comedy right

now as a relief at the end of the day but we have bigger problems that we need

to solve and so when I tell everybody to be funny I've got to worry about that

guy you know the guy who thinks he's funny but really isn't and so the one of

the challenges with jokes is that they're more likely to fail than succeed

it's why professionals get paid as well as they do because what their task is so

difficult and so what I often tell people is I'd rather you think like a

comedian I'd rather you think differently rather than - then - to be

funny and and so what I would say is in those cases where you come off as cocky

where people get upset where you tell a joke that doesn't land I like to say be

quick to apologize that is the audience is the arbiter of

whether a joke is good or bad the prob with people as they too often use their

own sense of humor to decide whether something is funny or not and so what I

would say is tread lightly especially when it comes to to work it's better to

be friendly and fun than to try to be funny yep thank you great let's do one

to two more questions we have an anonymous question that just came in I'm

starting a business and want to bring a little levity to things is it a terrible

idea to use humor and is there a life span on a good stick yes that's that's

interesting so what I would say is if you're starting a new business and

especially if you want to try to build a team

I do really like improv as a way to do that because one of the things that

we're all finding with this pandemic right now is we're suddenly having to

improvise all the time all the existing standard operating procedures aren't

quite working we're having technological problems as I said error rates are

through the roof we're having to solve a lot of problems on the fly and so I like

the idea of if you want to try to build teamwork is to to lean on on improv

because improv is super fun it tends to be pretty safe and because it's built on

these rules of lift listening and being cooperative and yes and being and

playing from the top of your intelligence that you can then have fun

bond and then also start to use these rules to use these insights in other

parts of the business when you think about it like I teach MBAs and in MBA

programs they teach systemic thinking very very well but we're where we often

find success in business is these sort of softer skills communication skills

improvisational skills that end up really mattering and so what I would say

is if you're going to do that Anonymous you should try to try to get

that one-two punch like I said like like the shit storming task is a lot of fun

to do but it also may may actually reward your team with an insight they

wouldn't have otherwise I mean if they need to one more.

Okay great this is a

question from Elizabeth. If you aren't necessarily funny how do you recommend

adding one of these lessons into your routine or is there one that I should

start with and try?

Mmm yes okay so that is a thank you for asking that question

I'm gonna do one quick mini lesson here I think this is the one that I would

sort of strongly suggest so I think as I said this is I think this is a moment in

time this is a call to action I think that if you're not rethinking lots of

your life whether it be the economics of your life your profession your health I

think you're missing an opportunity right here I invite you to consider

whether you're a fragile whether you're a bust

whether you're anti fragile and if you're fragile how can you find a way to

be more robust for the next Black Swan I like this idea of writing so what's

ubiquitous in the world of comedy is the notebook this is Janeane Garofalo

Janeane is an adept stand-up comic she's a writer she's been in movies

she's been TV she was a radio host she's co-written a book with Ben Stiller

she brings her notebook on stage that's how important it is to her Mitch Hedberg

wife only saw him cry once and it was when he lost his his notebook I would

encourage you to start writing if you don't write I think you should begin

that is put down your damn phone get a pen get a paper get a notepad cheap

expensive whatever it is and start writing down how you're feeling what

you're thinking about I really encourage you if you don't journal you should you

could you should really start journaling right now a gratitude journal is a great

place to start at the end of every day to write down

three things that went well and why in a time of uncertainty fear chaos being

able to have a document that comes out of this that you can reflect on this is

important but writing is not just important in terms of recording ideas

it's also important in terms of clarifying ideas so in in stick to

business and in the workbook I have I have an example of someone pagers I

think that if you're starting to make change in your life if you're thinking

about a new project a new business is you should work on a one pager in which

you which you write out this stuff I know this is not easy I know that most

of you aren't good writers I know that for many of you writing is very

difficult but writing is like the cheat code for really truly having profound

insights in in life comics needed to write the the premises for their movies

and the punchlines for their jokes but we can use it to to track how we feel

how we're thinking to to really add a level of precision to our thinking it's

easy to be kind of cheap and easy with words as we talk it's another thing when

you write writing will expose weaknesses and ideas and so what I would encourage

you to do is to start a journal and to try to find time to write in it every

day and by the way the work on gratitude journals is very clear they make you

happier okay so let me just let me just wrap up here first of all I'm very happy

that all of you joined if you've taken my class you know I have a saying and

that is business is hard business is hard business is hard well as you know

pandemics are hard also and and thankfully things like this don't come

around that often but they come around often enough that that there's a lesson

to be learned from this one about providing a call-to-action for the next

one and so building on some of these lessons about thinking funny from the

masters of comedy how can you think in Reverse whether it be to get new ideas

or to try to turn these bad things into good things to recognize that you the

lone genius might need other people to execute your great ideas or you might

maybe need the person to help that other person execute their ideas as I like to

say because you can't predict the future don't have goals have systems have ways

like protect to grind and release that help you work on your craft every day

and don't be afraid to take pen to paper in order to in order to record your

ideas and your thoughts and your feelings but also then to develop your

ideas and to make them better and then the last thing is I'm gonna lead you to

leave you with what I think is a hopeful idea we're all familiar with

post-traumatic stress and I think that this situation is going to set off a

variety of health crises mental and physical for a lot of people it doesn't

have to be that way there's there's also research on what's called post-traumatic

growth and and that is situations in which people have something really

terrible happen but as a result of it they make change in their life that

leads them to be a better person maybe it solidifies their friendships or

family maybe they make a career pivot maybe they start to donate their time

maybe they decide to go on an adventure maybe they decide to lose weight and so

it doesn't have to be the case that just because times are very difficult right

now that you can't as a result of this end up becoming better off and so but

but anybody who's engaged in had post-traumatic growth what's going to

happen though is that that's going to be not past it it's going to be active and

so I just want all of you to know that I am thinking I'm out in the desert

right now taking a sabbatical from my sabbatical I'm doing lots of reading and

writing planning my next chapters in life I know this is a very difficult

time I invite you to try to to respond like a comedian and try to find the good

in it and try to make the most of it I really appreciate you tuning in I wish

you the best and and good luck to all of you thank you so much Cheers

great thank you so much to everyone for joining us for today's presentation and

thank you again to Peter for this great information as a reminder all webinar

attendees will receive an email tomorrow with a link to the recording of this

presentation to view upcoming webinars as well as previous recordings please

visit our website at www.colorado.edu/business/alumni more information

is forthcoming about our next COVID-19 webinar series so stay tuned. In the

meantime have a great rest of your day and go buffs!

The Description of COVID-19 Webinar Series - Shtick to Innovation