Second Science Project Chicago Booth - Roman Family Center | Chicago Booth

Second Science Project Chicago Booth

Second Science Project Chicago Booth

In a groundbreaking partnership for the Center for Decision Research and Harry L. Davis Center for Leadership at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business with The Second City, the Second Science Project (SSP) intersects behavioral science with improvisational practice to cultivate the behavioral insights and interpersonal skills needed in today’s workplace.


This new collaboration does not take improvisation as a form of entertainment, but rather as a feature of daily life—something people must do every time they find themselves in a situation they didn’t completely foresee, whether in the context of adjusting to new coworkers, responding to unforeseen defiance, or changing a team’s old strategy. Inspired by over a century of behavioral research as well as decades of experiential expertise accumulated at The Second City, this new evidence-driven collaboration seeks to help people not only understand but practice adapting their own behavior to accommodate how people improvise their everyday responses to the world.

Pioneering Research

This collaboration aims to produce and publish rigorous, cutting-edge, high-impact research. Work supported by this collaboration will pertain to the wide range of behavioral science phenomena relevant to the types of judgment, decision-making, and behavior that are relevant in improvisational contexts. These include honesty, empathy, group relations, motivation, communication, cooperation, goals, perception, self-regulation, diversity, inclusion, and coordination.

Education Programs

Defining a new generation of learning experiences, SSP workshops bring the Leadership in Practice approach vividly to life: Each workshop takes participants to the step beyond gaining behavioral insights, bringing out their ability to improvise in translating those insights into action. Grounded in over a century of behavioral science and The Second City’s renowned “Yes, And” philosophy, each workshop utilizes enriched improvisational exercises to help participants identify, analyze, and better adapt their individual approaches to the interpersonal demands of their work.

The power of the SSP workshops arises in the blending of scientific insight and skilled practice through newly designed improvisational exercises, offering participants an innovative way to both learn and act. Amplifying the strengths for which each institution is known around the world, each experiential session is infused with cutting-edge behavioral science from fields such as economics, psychology, and neuroscience, as well as with scientifically informed improvisational practice from the institution that has produced icons such as Bill Murray, Tina Fey, and Stephen Colbert.

With the societal landscape becoming ever more dynamic and variable over time, these workshops promise neither a cure-all nor a superficial five-point plan for success. Taking an unabashedly realistic approach to the development of people skills, the sessions simply help participants to practice—with potent understanding of common human tendencies—the small improvements they can make to more successfully improvise their way through each day. With the courage to move one step at a time, the workshops promote reliable development of the inclusive interpersonal skills, such as engagement, listening, reflection, and collaboration, all of which have become vital.

Some of Our Current Offerings Include:

For an increasing number of people, today’s societal landscape is anything but familiar. New technologies, new demographics, and constantly evolving individual interests are more than enough to keep everyone guessing when it comes to optimal ways of getting along. A common response to these uncertainties is heightened anxiety: many people will find themselves paralyzed by indecision or by a concern that they may not even fully understand the perspectives that are on the table. But summoning bravado will not avert such situations, nor will acting in haste to dismiss them. Only by skillfully and collaboratively engaging with the discomfort can people confidently bring their communities together into the future. In this interactive session, participants will discover their own propensities and potential for strategic discomfort and practice using it to fuel personal and organizational growth.

To what extent are you confident that people in your network fully hear you and understand your point of view? If you are like most people, it is difficult to think of a time when you can rely on getting this kind of full understanding from others, and it may be even harder to be sure of your own success in understanding what your colleagues are trying to get across to you. In this interactive session, we’ll focus on the often-underestimated challenge of really understanding what people in the workplace are trying to get across, then examine the listening skills that can help us to do a better job of that, so we can all do our jobs better.

Have you ever wondered why other people in your organization make choices that don’t seem to serve the best interests of the organization—or even of themselves? Many leaders know, of course, that sometimes choosers just have a hard time motivating themselves to act as they should, but few leaders also realize that often the choosers aren’t actually getting a clear sense of what the right course of action is; indeed, sometimes the situation is shuffling choosers down the wrong path! In this session, we’ll look at the role leaders play in architecting situational forces that nudge people into various patterns of behavior, and surface options for managing that responsibility with sensitivity and skill.

This session will introduce practical approaches with which individuals, teams, and communities can benefit from disagreement and dissimilarity, even where tensions typically take social interactions off track. Providing an alternative to typical avoidant approaches to conflict, this session draws attention to the value in candid communication about differences, and upends the common assumption that related tensions necessarily undermine collaboration. Integrating improvisational practices and research insights, attendees will explore evidence-based approaches for constructively asserting their own perspectives, while simultaneously affirming those of others.

Utilizing a framework for the conditions leaders can implement to foster optimal team interactions, this session will offer participants evidence-based strategies for improving the performance of their teams, such that clients, organizational sponsors, and team members themselves benefit. In an experience that integrates improvisational practice with behavioral science insights, participants will develop their abilities to focus and motivate team members, minimize disruption from difficult personalities, and foster self-management. Specific foci will include: techniques for setting a compelling direction, the usefulness of clear norms, and guidelines for team coaching.

Few people feel great about influence that serves one’s own goals at the expense of others. Instead, the hope is often that the target audience can be brought around to genuinely endorse the influencer’s goals, and to make a reliable commitment to support them. In this experiential learning session, we will enrich your understanding and practice of this model of social influence, using interactive exercises to explore on how attending to others can clear a powerful (though often overlooked) path forward. Specific foci will include the value of adjustment to others, and understanding the factors that enable and inspire reciprocity.

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