How Dean Boynton Uses Improv Techniques In Curriculum

On Forbes.com, users are used to scrolling through articles that highlight lessons of innovation and creativity from firms like Apple and Google. Andrew Boynton, Dean of the Carroll School of Management and contributor to Forbes, however, explores what there is to learn from a different kind of company, seemingly unrelated to business: improv companies.

In “Four Big Lessons From Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey And Other Improv Masters,” Boynton explores what improv companies have to teach about innovation and creativity.

In an interview with The Heights, Boynton said that he has taken the lessons he writes about in the article into his work at Boston College, specifically, within his work with BC’s core curriculum.


“I looked at improv as another interesting setting where creativity and innovation flourish. Innovation and creativity are all about coming up with new ideas, and new ideas are how progress happens.”


Through teamwork, innovation and creativity within the BC faculty, the new pilot courses, as well as Portico, were created. The new pilot core courses are interdisciplinary courses only open to freshmen.

These courses are taught by two faculty members from two different fields that are brought together within one course.

In 2005, Boynton suggested to faculty and alumni that an ethical aspect be added to the CSOM curriculum. After gathering an interdisciplinary team, discussing the idea, and molding the curriculum, Portico was created.

Four years after the initial suggestion, Portico was officially introduced to the CSOM core requirement in 2009. Boynton explains that creativity and innovation are, in themselves, a whole field and discipline that researchers have researched and written about.
Boynton stressed the importance of teamwork and building off others’ ideas is in creating anything.

Team members, he said, should not be so focused on controlling their idea’s outcome and receiving maximum credit for the work, but should instead be constantly building on each other’s ideas.

Although the article explains the lessons within the context of the improv stage, Boynton made it clear that the focus of the article was not humor or improv.

Rather, the article focuses on the methods and processes that surround and foster innovation and creativity.

“It’s not that I take a liking to improv, I’m very interested in creativity, innovation, and teamwork,” Boynton said. “I looked at improv as another interesting setting where creativity and innovation flourish. Innovation and creativity are all about coming up with new ideas, and new ideas are how progress happens.”

His article listed four lessons every improviser has internalized in order to maximize creativity and innovation: no one is the most important person in the scene, everyone must learn to love when they are failing, people should be open to changing their ideas, and lastly, everyone should try to respond with “Yes, and ….”

Boynton stressed the importance of a team’s dynamic, explaining that the individual is not the most important person in the scene, not because someone else is more important, but rather in the sense that everyone should be open to learning from those around them.

“I went to BC as an undergrad and always instilled in me was ‘Ever to Excel,’” Boynton said. “So, what that is to me, is to always try to get better. I always have a sense of discontent about where we are as a school and how to get better. You need to create a culture of innovation and creativity. I’m never about maintaining the status quo.”

Featured Image by John Wiley / Heights Editor

About Heidi Dong 67 Articles
Heidi is the Head Investigative Editor. She is from Madison, WI, but does not live on a farm, has never gone cow tipping, and does not have any strong opinions about cheese.