Funny Business: Using Improv to Educate Ethical Business Leaders
What do business executives and stand-up comedians have in common? A lot, according to Cady Garey, a University of Virginia drama professor who is using improv techniques to prepare McIntire School of Commerce students to respond quickly and effectively during tense ethical situations.
Garey recently joined students in assistant commerce professor Kerrie Carfagno’s course, “Business Communication for the Digital Age.” All semester, the class has been learning how to communicate and work through common ethical situations, especially nuanced dilemmas where there is often no one “right” answer. Garey and Carfagno’s collaboration is one of many tools being employed to help undergraduate and graduate students become principled leaders in a corporate world that is too often tainted by unprincipled decisions.
“In a 20-, 30- or 40-year career, statistically, you will be put into a tricky ethical situation,” Carfagno told the class. “In those situations, you need to be able to react in the moment, often with little preparation.”
That’s where Garey comes in.
Garey began class by asking students to turn in the assignment she had e-mailed to them earlier in the week. Immediately, the room fell silent. A few students exchanged panicked looks, others simply looked at the floor or fidgeted with their backpacks. Garey, they soon found out, had tricked them. See more