The “Next Big Idea”

Over the holiday weekend, in between mowing the grass, planting flowers and washing outside windows, I had the pleasure of reading an interesting book I thought I would tell you about.

When you say the word “improvisation,” one may conjure up images of Chris Farley dancing in his Chippendale outfit on SNL or Wayne Brady making you laugh out loud on “Whose Line is it, Anyway?” Locally, one might think of a hysterical night of laughter at ComedySportz.

Few would think of Improv as a way of improving business practices. John Sweeney finds a way in his book, “Innovation at the Speed of Laughter.”

It’s no secret that new ideas fuel profitability. Even when companies hire top talent and teach best skills, few are able to affect the bottom line unless their employees can generate and execute new concepts. It sounds like a simple principle, but finding new ideas can become a company’s greatest challenge. What if we were to tell you that a little comedy theater in Minneapolis has created an incredibly effective idea process to help businesses generate more and better ideas? In fact, the owner and executive director of that little theater has used this breakthrough process to help companies like 3M, Altria, Medtronic, Best Buy, Disney and hundreds of others achieve greater innovation.

Born from the formula used for more than 45 years to help write outlandish satirical comedy, Sweeney’s book describes eight principles that guide companies, leaders and individuals to generate more and better ideas. Using client case studies, individual testimonials and a lighthearted writing style, this book is especially appealing to business leaders, team builders and companies seeking to find the “next big idea.”

According to Sweeney, “Perhaps the most beneficial part of our process is the practical application portion, in which the idea gets fleshed out and prepared for implementation. The only way an idea can become profitable is by taking it from the individual mind and the brainstorming session to the company conference room and the factory floor. Our process explains how and when to implement constraints into idea generation in order to bring true gems to fruition.”

Here are a couple of testimonials taken from the book:

“Improv principles such as honesty, trust, listening and staying in the moment have really helped my work and personal life. I find it easier dealing with change. Improv helps me to deal with events that don’t go according to the master plan and “surprises.”

“I believe as we age, the ability to be spontaneous becomes less and less. Also, to trust one’s own intuition becomes more difficult. We develop filters, screens, bias and prejudice. These all play out in the workplace as we navigate the political landscape and manage and supervise employees in which a variety of supervisory styles are needed to get the work done. For me, the improv classes created a new awareness of my rigidity and stiffness, and I also came to realize that through practice of improv techniques there is a way to loosen yourself up. As this new awareness followed me to my workplace, I could see humor and spontaneity in every interaction. In turn, trust and motivation occur with my peers and those who report to me.”

Reading “Innovation at the Speed of Laughter” is a great way to be entertained, educated and inspired. Recommended reading for everyone in business who wants to develop a smooth running team!

I also personally endorse John’s blog at

Rob Trecek

Johnson Direct LLC


The comments expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official positions of Johnson Direct, LLC.