Improvise your way to better negotiation and leadership skills: An interview with Karen Hough

LC: When did it move to the next level?

KH: My husband wanted to move back home, which happened to be Columbus, Ohio. I thought: wow, I have to look for a new job. Then I thought: what if I could do more with this thing I really love? Ironically, Columbus turned out to be the most incredible place to grow a business. There are a ton of headquarters here, and I was able to meet decision-makers who were willing to take a little bit of a risk and try something different. So I built a client list and in 2005 I bought out my cofounders and incorporated. That’s when the enterprise really started to take off.

“I had no background or education that prepared me for it. But every single day the behaviors I had learned as an improviser on stage allowed me to think on my feet, ask the right questions and engage people. So I did really well, and I loved it.”

LC: Why do you think your firm ImprovEdge has been so successful?

KH: Whether it’s negotiations, inclusion and diversity, sales, creativity, or leadership training, the philosophies and the behaviors of improv are the core of how we teach it. It’s fresh and engaging, and people look at their job and their actions and behaviors in a completely different way.

LC: You've written about creativity and the widely held belief that it comes from an environment of boundless possibility. Can you explain why you don’t think that’s necessarily true?

KH: The great thing about boundaries within the context of creativity is that they create drive. They provide a challenge. And because there’s a competitive nature in almost any human being, once we are challenged and there is something to overcome, we suddenly become very creative about how to work within that boundary instead of focusing on how to jump over it.

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