DU Alumni

Daniels MBA student turns improv comedy into a business

Bruce Montgomery and his wife, Gail, founded ExperienceYes, an innovation company that uses the tools of improv as a basis for new idea generation and creating stronger teams. Photo courtesy of Bruce Montgomery

Bruce Montgomery and his wife, Gail, founded ExperienceYes, an innovation company that uses the tools of improv as a basis for new idea generation and creating stronger teams. Photo courtesy of Bruce Montgomery

When Bruce Montgomery (EMBA ’13) was looking for a change in his current job, he wasn’t expecting to launch his own business. At the time, he was director of IT for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA), and he wanted to advance in his career. Moving up in the IT world seemed like a logical step, but Montgomery did something totally different — with advice from his professors in the Daniels College of Business Executive MBA Program.

A professional theater actor in New York for seven years, Montgomery entered the world of improvisational comedy in 2005 with instruction from a former teacher at Second City, an improv troupe in Chicago. He later became a founding member of the Evergreen Players Improv Comedy (EPiC) and has performed improv professionally with Cult Following at the DCPA.

During a leadership class, Montgomery was challenged by Professor Scott McLagan to turn something he loved into a business. Soon after, he launched ExperienceYes.

“We’re an innovation company that uses the tools of improv as a basis for new idea generation and creating stronger teams,” Montgomery says.

Montgomery explains that there are four rules of improv:

  • Say “yes and…” when someone shares an idea. No “no’s” are allowed.
  • Listen fully to everyone in the room.
  • Support teammates at all costs.
  • Trust your instincts.

“Studies show that the way to have a good, useful idea is to have lots of ideas,” he says. “In our workshops we’ve been able to increase idea generation up to 82 percent.”

Montgomery explains that this approach helps clients save millions of dollars and increase customer loyalty.

ExperienceYes, which currently consists of Montgomery and his wife, Gail, has worked with Fortune 100 companies like DaVita, DirecTV and Comcast. They couple also published a book, “Brain Disruption: Radical Innovation in Business Through Improv.”

“We’re tremendously excited about the book,” Montgomery says. “It’s the culmination of all of the work we’ve done with our clients — and it’s got very practical exercises that can get organizations moving the innovation needle immediately. The responses we’re getting from CEOs and executive team leaders means that we’re doing something right.”

McLagan, a professor at the Daniels College for 12 years, says stories like Montgomery’s are common.

“The students in the EMBA program are generally mid-career and have excellent business experience,” he says. “The program often ignites a passion to start their own business, provides the opportunity to refine their business idea and gives them the confidence to follow through.”

Montgomery says his experiences in the EMBA program — an 18-month program designed for mid-to-senior level professionals seeking to strengthen their business skills, expand their leadership abilities and broaden their perspectives — was critical to the company’s success.

“We’re right on the precipice of some explosive growth, and I know that we couldn’t have done this alone,” Montgomery says. “Fellow classmates helped craft the business plan in Entrepreneurship class, and the ongoing guidance and support from professors has been critical. Within the first eight months of launching my business, I was able to pay back all of my student loans. I’d consider that a fantastic return on investment.”

2 Comments

  1. Totally agree. If you’re an entrepreneur then you have to be able to improv. I’ve started a few companies now and couldn’t imagine how things would work out if I stood around waiting for ideal scenarios to pop up. I’ve had to take what came my way and by using improvisation, we’re able to learn from our mistakes and success.

    By the way, I think I’ve got to get that book! Thanks for the info.

    • We’ve actually done some work with several entrepreneurs – it’s amazing how much the improv skill really applies – even with just starting with the craft of honing a business pitch. Let us know how you enjoy the book!

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