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Business School Better Preparing Tomorrow's Leaders In The Art Of Pulling Stuff Out Of One's Ass

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How many times have you sat in a meeting only to be called on by your boss to answer a question you're not even sure he's speaking English on? How many times has Steve Cohen called you on a Sunday night and peppered you with brain busters about a company you're supposed to know inside and out but in this case have never heard of, which is not an acceptable response? How many times has the FBI made an unannounced visit to your office demanding to see you break dance on the trading floor or they're shutting the place down, and you can't even box step?

Called out, you probably fumbled around, giving entirely unconvincing answers (filled with lots of 'umms' and lines like 'it depends what the meaning of is is') and did something that resembled a busted Macarena. Business leaders of tomorrow who graduate from MIT's Sloan school of business will fare better when put on the spot, as their course catalogue now includes a class on 'improv.'

A group of MBA students at MIT’s Sloan School of Management tossed aside their briefcases and book bags this month to flex their creative muscles, doing everything from playing an imaginary game of soccer to inventing office conflicts. The second-year MBA students were participating in a leadership class called “Improvisational Leadership: In the Moment Leadership Skills,” according to a release from the Sloan School. The acting class is the latest step by a leading business school to integrate creative arts and drama into the business school curriculum. It’s a trend that has been brewing for several years at a small but growing number of business schools...The financial crisis and shaky economy has heightened the need for this type of training, which brings lessons from psychology and theater to business education, said actress Daena Giardella. Students are asked to examine their habits and default responses and come up with new ways to approach the situation, without a script in hand, she said.

“We need these skills so we can adapt to new circumstances to come up with new fixes,” Giardella said. “If there has ever been a time when there is a need for great spontaneous communicators who can be in the moment, embrace change, and make things happen, it’s now.” The three-hour, once-a-week class has some readings and two required papers, but the majority of the class grade comes from class participation and scenes and monologues that students are expected to enact on the spot. For example, in one scene a student played a boss who was annoyed with an employee who didn't respond to e-mails. In another, students banded together to form a corporate team that was frustrated when a member who was planning to leave hadn't yet told the team leader.

MBA Brings Improv To The Classroom [BW]


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