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Business Review - Improve with Improv


Scotty Watson talks about how Improvisational theatre helps him understand how his customers are wired.

(New installments of the Business Review are on hold due to Covid-19.  This is a repeat of a previously aired segment.)

By day, Scotty Watson is Chief Marketing Officer at the Provident Loan Society of New York… a not-for-profit organization of pawn shops in New York City offering short-term cash advances.  By night, he teaches improvisational theatre…  as a veteran of Chicago’s renowned second city troupe, Watson says the skill works well in increasing his marketing business.  He’s found improv helps him connect better with 

people.      By understanding who they are and how they’re wired… he creates what he calls ‘customer profiles.’

“I build them as an actor.  So, what an actor does is they bring their own set of human emotions.  I know who the customers of the Provident Loan Society are.  I think I can speak as them in an emotional sense.  I don’t think people make as many decisions logically as we like to think that they do.  I think that most people are operating from an emotional place.”

Watson and his team use these profiles to act out various scenarios. Sometimes they’ll take turns reading marketing material outloud.  This allows them to practice responding in an improv “yes, and…” manner, and pivot successfully with a different approach based on how the information may be perceived. This technique is especially helpful before pitching a strategy or trying to convince a client to try something new.

“We’ll play that and see how we react to our social media.  Are we going to laugh at that?  Or are we going to go huh?  Are we going to be challenged, or offended?”

Watson says having higher emotional intelligence helps to quickly read a room, and see how people are truly feeling in a particular situation… and by using improv, the human element is brought back into corporate decision making.

Business Review is a production of KWBU, Livingston & Mckay, and the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University.

C.J. Jackson drives on sunshine and thrives on family, NPR and PBS. She is the assistant dean of communications and marketing at Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business and host of public radio’s “Business Review.” Previously, she was director of marketing communications for a large, multinational corporation. C.J. has two daughters—Bri in San Antonio and Devon in Chicago—and four grandchildren. She lives with a little yellow cat named for an ancient Hawaiian tripping weapon.