Archives For improv


Last week I presented The Herd of Cats to a great audience at the World Conference on Disaster Management in Toronto. Although I’d floated the premise out there before at CPRS Ascend in Banff last spring, this was the first real public unveiling of many of the ideas and cases that will be featured in the book.

This was the session’s synopsis in the program:

The Herd of Cats: Startups, Improv, and Disasters

The strange, fringe worlds of tech startups and improv comedy may offer some powerful insights for disaster managers (and vice versa). As cliche as it has become to say that the world is faster-paced and more unpredictable than ever before, many of us – individuals and groups alike – are still overwhelmed and ill-equipped to deal with this new normal. Whether it’s the massive disruption created by new technologies, the turbulent shifts in how interconnected politics and markets behave, or the severe impact of Black Swan events like “one-in-100-year” super-storms, it’s evident that our systems, enterprises, governments, organizations, and ourselves must find better ways to adapt. We are more sensitive to the volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity that surrounds us. And we’re more vulnerable to the predictions, plans, tools, and hierarchies that remain entrenched in all facets of our lives. Much of what worked before simply doesn’t anymore, and we need to learn how to approach this new age with ingenuity, versatility, and resiliency. Fortunately, there’s a vanguard – a herd of cats – who have not only figured out how to endure uncertainty but how to thrive in it. Lean, Agile, Holacracy, APIs, Jobs-to-be-Done, Blue Ocean… “Yes, and”, Follow-Your-Foot, active listening, fluid leadership, play… In The Herd of Cats, Steve Hardy sheds light on the dynamic yet disparate worlds inhabited by entrepreneurs, improvisers, and disaster managers. Blend together the maxims of startup culture, the principles of an improv mindset, and the hard realities of disaster resilience, and what you’ll find is the very best approach to navigating the rapidly changing world around us. Hardy enthusiastically explores this fascinating inter-sectional space, profiling each area’s unique stories, philosophies, and best practices, while also illustrating their remarkable similarities and valuable cross-learning.

And here is a narrated video of the deck I presented:

It was an honour to be invited to speak at such a great event, and I am grateful for all of the positive feedback I received from delegates who attended it.

FIT Boot Camp 3.0

March 14, 2015 — Leave a comment


Last week I ventured to the gorgeous Wasatch Mountains an hour or so east of Salt Lake City in Utah where I had the pleasure to partake in Field Innovation Team (FIT) Boot Camp 3.0, an exciting gathering of 30 or so eclectic folks to discuss disaster innovation. (Yes, this is a real thing.)

I wrote about the experience over at the RallyEngine blog. Check it out.

Teasing The Herd of Cats

November 22, 2014 — Leave a comment

Time to let the cat out of the bag. I’m writing a book. It’s going to be awesome. I’ve tentatively titled it The Herd of Cats: How Entrepreneurs, Improvisers, and Disaster Managers Approach an Uncertain World and it’s inspired by the three very different worlds I’ve been exposed to over the past year or so with RallyEngine.

Herd of Cats book cover

Here’s the draft jacket copy…

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A Tale of Two Conferences

November 15, 2014 — 1 Comment

Last week I attended two very different conferences. Earlier in the week I was in Vancouver for the APCO Canada conference for public safety communicators. And later in the week (and weekend) I was in Austin for the AIN applied improvisation conference. RallyEngine had a tradeshow booth and a small speaking slot at the former and I had no idea what to expect at the latter; a wildcard.

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Improvisation is the technology for the 21st century.

Adam Blatner at #AINAustin

Herding Cats – Ascend

September 9, 2014 — Leave a comment


Last fall, for RallyEngine, I commissioned market research company Ipsos to survey large (100+ people) downtown Calgary organizations to find out how prepared for and communicated during the massive flooding in May 2013. One of the insights we gleaned from that study’s report was that many companies relied more on ad hoc reactions than on their prepared Emergency Response Plans. This was interesting and it got me curious about an arena of comedy that I’ve always enjoyed but never looked at seriously: improv.

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Life Habits

It was the feeling in my throat that spooked me the most. My neck, and particularly my throat, was constantly clenched, tight, and sore despite not having a cold or anything else obvious. I visited my doctor, an ENT specialist, and a chiropractor and none of them could point to anything specific as a cause for the persistent discomfort. Intuitively, however, I knew that it was stress related.

My job at the time, while enjoyable, combined a number of stressful factors. For starters, my field was both in web and in consumer electronics technology – a couple high-paced and demanding industries. I began as the web guy – including everything from websites and virtual worlds to social media and online campaigns – but that soon also encompassed product management on a nascent CE line. I wore at least a couple hats. The company’s headcount was also small but worldwide, which meant a daily marathon of calls, iChats, and emails. I spent my mornings in Europe, my afternoons with the Americans, and my evenings discussing specs with our manufacturing headquarters in Hong Kong. Saturday was really the only quiet day of the week. And on top of that, the economy was in the toilet and the retail giants were ruthless – which makes for frantic Sales folks and miserable Management discord. All of this I somehow came to feel in a very real way in my throat.

So I resigned. It was a big decision. The team was generally great, the pay was very good, and the opportunities were numerous. But it simply wasn’t worth my health.

And sure enough the tension in my throat dissipated soon after I moved on.

That was two years ago. This post is less about burning the candle at both ends and recognizing one’s breaking point than it is about identifying positive practical habits to not only achieve a better work-life balance but to actually become more productive, efficient, and happy overall. So in the spirit of inspiring you to live and work smarter, here’s a list of 12 things I did:

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