Improv Reshapes Ask.com’s Creativity, InnovationBy: Chris Richardson - April 13, 2012
Can improvisation inspire new methods of innovation and creativity, especially when you’re inspired by Tina Fey’s book, Bossypants? If you work for Ask.com, the answer is yes, yes it can.
When speaking to Ask’s Lisa Kavanaugh, Ask’s Chief Product and Technology Officer, Abby Johnson and the rest of the WebProNews video team found out the details of Ask’s new strategy when it comes to creating new ideas and innovation in general. The idea for this new method of inspiring creativity, at least in the world of Internet technology, came when Ask CEO Doug Leeds read Fey’s book. As you might expect, the part that stood out to him was using improv as a way to get the creative juices following. Because of that, Ask has now incorporated improv as part of the innovation process, and while the idea may seem silly, according to Kavanaugh, the results have been quite positive.
The idea was initially greeted with some skepticism, but now, it’s apart of the Ask strategy. According to Kavanaugh, the idea is “borrowing from the tenants of improv and applying that to a business setting in order to stimulate innovation from a new way of thinking.” She goes on to say that improv allows co-workers to share and build upon ideas in a collaborative manner in an atmosphere where no idea or suggestion is a bad one. Essentially, the improvisational approach allows the Ask team to work together with others in order to build something bigger and better.
While the team was a little apprehensive to idea at first, according to Kavanaugh, the new strategy has been embraced by the Ask team. It should be noted that Ask’s developers are not the only ones part of this new approach. Improv training has been passed down to the entire company, including receptionists and mailroom employees.
In fact, to facilitate this process, every Friday, Ask’s team goes through their “funivation” warm ups, which allows them to break out of the standard way of thinking in such business surroundings. Based on the feedback from Kavanaugh, the idea has been embraced by the entire company, and it seems to have rejuvenated the innovation process.
The question is, if it works for Ask, will it work for your company? What do you think? Is it time to break out of those dull strategy meetings and engage employees on a different level, especially if you see it working in other environments?