Bob Kulhan, How to Use Improv to Communicate and Collaborate More Effectively – InnovaBuzz 366

Bob Kulhan

Bob Kulhan, Business Improv

In this episode, I’m really excited to have as my guest, Bob Kulhan, Adjunct Professor of Business Administration for The Fuqua School of Business, Duke University, as well as an Adjunct Professor of Business for Columbia Business School, Columbia University. He also is the Founder & CEO of Business Improv®, a 21-year-old consultancy that links improv to business through behavioral sciences and real-world application.

Business Improv is a world-class leader in developing experiential On-Site, Virtual (synchronous), Online (asynchronous) programs, as well as Hybrid and Open Enrollment courses for businesses and leaders. Improvisational Communication is designed to take you from constantly struggling with your blocks and barriers to communication, to a place where you can thrive as a confident and competent communicator. 

Bob has very generously offered an exclusive code for listeners of this podcast to Business Improv’s Improvisational Communication, a first-of-its-kind online course designed using research backed by science and more than 20 years of experience. This course is regularly priced at $249 and by using the code YESAND you will be able to purchase for just $99.

In our discussion, Bob talked to me about:

  • How we can use Improv for collaboration, communication and adapting to change
  • How to break down organisational silos using Improv principles
  • How to adjust your communication and facilitation style when transitioning from live to online events

Jason Van Orden in episode 275 introduced us to Bob.

Listen to the podcast to find out more.

Listen to the Podcast

Improvisation lives in the moment. It doesn't live in the past nor in the future. You have one opportunity to be fully present and be in that moment with people. @Kulhan on #InnovaBuzz podcast Click To Tweet

Show Notes from this episode with Bob Kulhan of Business Improv

Key points and takeaways from this episode include:

  • Improv is all about communication and collaboration. 
  • Improvisation lives in the moment. It doesn’t live in the past nor in the future. You have one opportunity to be fully present and be in that moment with people. 
  • The three core competencies of Business Improv are reacting, adapting, and communication. 
  • Reacting requires focus and concentration. It is being present in real-time at a very high level.
  • Adapting is reacting within parameters to achieve a specific outcome.
  • We all need to improvise. Improvisation can be applied in the way we handle different situations. 
  • The way we will get through this together is by working together. 
  • The unknown is ever-present and the unexpected is going to happen. If you are not playing at the moment at the top of your intelligence and to the best of your ability, you are going to miss the unexpected opportunity that is presented in front of you. 
  • Inside every challenge is an opportunity. Always look for the possibilities.
  • The larger an organisation is, the stronger the corporate silos are. 
  • Sales and marketing go hand in hand. You need to work together to optimise sales and you need to understand what sales is bringing to the table from a marketing perspective. Likewise, salespeople need to understand how marketing is taking place. 
  • We all have biases. It’s what makes us unique. Biases are not bad but we have to recognise those biases and do something about them to break the silos down.
  • There is a growth curve that goes with behavioural change. Change doesn’t happen overnight. It requires some guiding principles and room for error. 
  • Saying Yes-And is a great way to manage conflict. It allows you to slow down and be present, to truly listen to what somebody else is saying, and give your perspective as well. 
  • Improv is a great technique for opening up a dialogue. It enables you to get somebody else’s perspective and really create that collaborative joint problem-solving methodology going forward.
  • Your class will always teach you how to teach them. Focus on engaging, listening, and understanding what they are saying to you. Put yourself into that opportunity to engage and make both macro and micro adjustment to reach the learning outcomes that have been clearly defined.
  • You have to recognise that virtual classes are a different medium. It’s different from a phone call or a classroom. Once you start looking at it as its own beast, you start to develop things differently that respect the nuances of this medium.
  • Divergent thinking is all about postponing judgement. It’s deferring judgement to another time. Convergent thinking is where you put your critical thinking half back on and judge. 
  • Divergent thinking and convergent thinking increase the possibility of success.
  • YES does not mean, “I agree with you.” It means, “I hear you.” AND is the bridge to your thoughts and your perspectives. 
  • AND is inclusive. There is an alignment. BUT is exclusive and confrontational. AND triggers positive emotions. BUT eliminates everything that was said before, whilst AND builds on it. 
  • Business Improv is focused outward. It is listening, engaging, and valuing what somebody else has to say. 
  • To be understood is a basic human desire. It is the key to all great relationships. When we truly understand one another, it transcends proximity and medium.
  • When we push ourselves a bit outside of our comfort zone, we create a structure for us to succeed and a common language that we can use with each other and thereby creating culture. 
  • The moment we try to bend a little from our own culture is the moment where we come together to create that non-geographic chemistry in the team that we should continue to look at as an opportunity.
  • The workforce is going to change a lot because of this pandemic. 
  • Improv focuses on people. It focuses on human connection. It’s a fabulous set of tools and techniques for global collaboration and connection. 
  • The worst idea with great support will go further than the best idea with no support.
  • Creating a psychologically safe space has nothing to do with proximity and medium.
  • YES is thoughtfulness and being present. AND is the bridge to how you are present, how you are understanding, and how you are being thoughtful. 
  • Energy and attitude are choices. They may not be something you could always change, and it may be hard to make that choice at the same time, but you can always try to be positive and bring energy.
  • Making a choice to at least try is better than not making a choice at all and not trying.
Your class will always teach you how to teach them. Focus on engaging, listening, and understanding what they are saying to you. @Kulhan on #InnovaBuzz podcast Click To Tweet

The Buzz – Our Innovation Round

Here are Bob’s answers to the questions of our innovation round. Listen to the conversation to get the full scoop.

  1. #1 thing to be more innovative – Cling to YES-AND. Practice divergent and convergent thinking. 
  2. Best thing for new ideas – Putting that time in on a regular basis. Keep your improvisation mindset working hard, otherwise, it will go dull. 
  3. Favourite tool for innovation – People. 
  4. Keep project/client on track – Communication. YES-AND cannot only be used in collaboration and comfort. It can also be used to get to a NO. 
  5. Differentiate – Smile. Be a light of hope. 

To Be a Leader

Be grateful. Pay somebody a heartfelt compliment. 

Reach Out

You can reach out and thank Bob through their website.

Suggested Guest

Bob suggested we have a conversation with Bruce Craven, author of Win or Die: Leadership Secrets from Game of ThronesSo Bruce, keep an eye on your inbox for an invitation from us to the InnovaBuzz podcast, courtesy of Bob Kulhan.


Become a better communicator, both personally and professionally! Get access to Business Improv’s Improvisational Communication Online Course. Enroll now and use the code YESAND to avail yourself of a big discount!


Cool Things About Bob

  • He is a co-founder of Baby Wants Candy
  • He has created more than a dozen one-man and sketch comedy shows.  You can find his characters on YouTube videos (“The BonVivant Gourmet” “SafetyMen” & the hit Holiday song “Christmas Hot Pants”).
  • He is passionate about cooking, SCUBA diving, and Brazilian Jju-Jitsu.
Improv focuses on people. It focuses on human connection. It's a fabulous set of tools and techniques for global collaboration and connection. @Kulhan on #InnovaBuzz podcast Click To Tweet

Listen to the Podcast

Jürgen Strauss

Dr. Jürgen Strauss is The World's Best Human-Centred Podcasting Coach and the only Podcast Innovator with the signature bright yellow headphones, who masterfully crafts human connection for high-impact achievers in a vibrant community. You can find Jürgen on LinkedIn, The InnovaBuzz Podcast, The Flywheel Nation Community as well as on Innovabiz' InstagramTwitter, Facebook pages and his personal Photography website.  

Leave a Comment