When I first got to Chicago and was doing improvisational comedy, there was a group of folks from Ivy League schools, like Rachel Dratch, who graduated from Dartmouth. There was another group from Midwestern universities, the Chris Farley types, who were like, “We are going to swear onstage and take our shirts off.” There was a fascinating balance there. It created a great blend of intellectual comedy and slapstick.
A fundamental principle of improv is listening and accepting any initiation that’s made on the stage. If you start improvising that you’re washing the dishes, and a minute later I walk over and turn on the TV where the sink is supposed to be, the audience feels the scene’s been ruined. Similarly, I want my managers to listen and respond to their employees’ perceptions, not ignore them. Managers have to be open to accepting any kind of initiation. When they deny there’s an issue and reflexively defend the status quo, it creates misery for people. — As told to Brad Stone
Costolo is CEO of Twitter.