Interview with Improvisation Master – Mike Bonifer

A while back you might recall a blog post I did on improvisation for business training with Mike Bonifer. The entire Twelve Horses organization had the opportunity to take part in some very informative and thought provoking workshops, scheduled over the course of several weeks, which were designed to push us outside of our comfort zones and approach business strategy and brainstorming in a different way. I think I can speak for everyone that participated when I say, we walked away energized and enlightened.

This Thursday Mike will join Stanley Hainsworth on stage at The Depot in downtown Salt Lake City for a branding symposium focused on how to translate and transform brands online. If you are wondering whether you’ll enjoy it, I can promise you that it will be like a conference, but thankfully not a conference.

Building up to the event, Mike took some time to talk with the UtahPulse about some of what you might expect from attending. Here is the interview in its entirety, but you might prefer to listen to the podcast recording on their website.

Brand Evolution: Mike Bonifer

MikeBonifer Any good businessperson should be able to improvise. The best improvisers are good listeners. So says Mike Bonifer, author of Game Changers and co-founder of a company by the same name. “I think it all begins with an understanding that we are brands who perform for the marketplace. Everyone has a vested interest in listening.”

Bonifer says the immediacy of today’s business environment, with blogs, microblogs and social networking, makes being able to improvise important. “Let’s just contrast it with scripting. Scripted behaviors are, by their very nature, about something you want to happen, and it’s almost like you envision it and you write about it after the fact. Stories and the narrative form are designed to chronicle something that’s already happened. So, you’re imagining that something has already happened, and then you go out with the script and try to make it come true.”

Bonifer says that game plan worked when the communication channels available were limited, but no more. “With things happening so quickly today, there is no time to script for every scenario, and by the time you’ve scripted to accommodate a certain scenario, that scenario has already evolved and changed. The script is no longer applicable. What do you do? You improvise your narrative, and improvisation is the discipline that lets you do that in a way that makes it not just random and ad-hoc, but disciplined and focused.”

If you want an example of businesses that are well suited for an improvisational environment, Bonifer says you need look no farther than Silicon Valley. “I think they understand that there is no dishonor is failure, and there is a tremendous amount of learning that comes with it. That’s why you see venture capitalists step up to the plate repeatedly with people that tried to launch an application or product and have failed, but there’s been a lot of learning and there’s been progress through the effort.”

Contrast the nimbleness of Silicon Valley with companies that are rooted in the industrial age. Bonifer says all companies are discovering the need to be more agile and more improvisational. “On one end you have silicon valley and the technology and media companies that are constantly renewing their relationship with the marketplace. On the other hand you have companies that have been selling the same product since the turn of the century and don’t see a real reason to rock the boat, or don’t see it until it’s too late.”

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