THE PROS AND CONS OF IMPROVISATION

Letting yourself go into the flow of improvisation and saying whatever is on your mind has many advantages and disadvantages. Let's start with the advantages, because they are easy to name.

For one thing, saying what you think solves the problem of remembering what to say. In the words of Mark Twain, “If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.” That's what some comedians do when they forget their routine. They just ad-lib, producing a stream of consciousness until the routine comes back to them. These can be the funniest moments of the show, when we see a genuine struggle of a comedian against his own memory.

The second advantage of telling the truth: it is liberating. As ancient Chinese philosopher Han Xiang wrote, “When you say what you don't mean and do what you don't want, you're not the one who's living.” In the 1998 movie Bulworth, an aging politician decided to end his career with a series of improvised and honest talks about the true state of the Union. He inconvenienced many people, but his popularity took a sudden spike. The voters liked a bit of honesty for a change. According to Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, the authors of an evidence-based model of leadership (and the bestselling book The Leadership Challenge), honesty is the number one trait that people cherish in their leaders. Number one. This research included thousands of people from all over the world. What's even more surprising, according to Kouzes and Posner, ...

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