Bob Kulhan is an Adjunct Professor of Business Administration for The Fuqua School of Business, Duke University. He also is the CEO of Business Improvisations, based out of Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. For over fifteen years Bob has performed and taught improvisation internationally. His teaching and performing credits include Chicago's famed Second City (master artist in residence), Improv Olympic (resident company/faculty), Columbia College, London TheaterSports, The Banff Centre, The Australian Graduate School of Management, UCLA Anderson School of Management, Columbia University Business School, and Duke University’s The Fuqua School of Business.
His consulting and teaching work in leadership and managerial improvisation includes emphases on team skills, fostering a collaborative corporate culture, whole body listening, busting blocks to creativity, conflict management, dyadic relationships, creative and adaptive problem solving, leadership, and fostering creative cultures. Since 1998, his customized Business Improvisations programs have benefited a number of companies, including Young Presidents Organization, FOSSAC, Ford Motor Company, Risk Insurance Management Society (RIMS), Cushman & Wakefield, The University of Notre Dame: Renovare, SAS, Mazda, American Express Cards, Glaxo Smith Kline, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, PepsiCo, Capital One, and Procter & Gamble, R&D University.
One of the biggest challenges that I face is reeducating people about what improvisation is. It is simply not comedy. Because of the popularity of television shows like Whose Line Is It Anyway or Curb Your Enthusiasm or Christopher Guest movies, Saturday Night Live, all these great theaters around the country that are so popular right now, improvisation is on everyone's lips.
Improvisation is not comedy. That's a type of improvisation. Improvisation, at its root, is reacting and adapting and communicating. A SWAT team improvises. You're not going to put comedians in a SWAT situation or a SWAT team on an improv stage. Those are two different types of improvisation, just like athletes have to improvise, politicians have to improvise… It comes from great teamwork. It comes from great support. It comes from great suspension of judgment, a great understanding of team members, awareness of environment.
Leaders have to be able to improvise on a daily basis, just simply to connect with each other and communicate with each other. For many people, these simple things, these soft skills, are actually the hard skills because there’s not an equation to be a great leader. There’s not an equation how to actually talk with somebody and communicate with somebody. It’s such an easy tool to support authentic leadership, bringing out the best of yourself. There is not a formula for a great leader. It has to come from you. You have all those X variables. It's got to come from you, authentically.
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd