11. John Sweeney

“Be sure to laugh today”

I think improv is an essential mindset for innovation and design. In this episode of The Iowa Idea Podcast, I sit down with John Sweeney. John, along with wife Jenni Lilledahl, are the co-owners of The Brave New Workshop (BNW). The Brave New Workshop is the nation’s longest running satirical and improv comedy theatre. John and the Brave New Workshop have developed corporate training and education programs that help leverage an improv mindset to develop an innovative mindset.

I’m a big fan of improv as a way to cultivate better social-emotional intelligence in organizations. John and I explore his journey to innovation, how he helps organizations utilize improv, and how he prepares for his keynote speeches.

From a design and craft perspective, I really appreciated how the Brave New Workshop developed new lines of business by listening to their customers and how John continues to work on his craft. Taking a “humbly serve” attitude to approaching his business and performance. By not taking himself too seriously, he’s able to extend the work and vision of Dudley Riggs. The spirit of service and support from Dudley’s philosophy of providing a “safe haven for the freaks.”

I’d like to thank John for joining me for this discussion. I hope you enjoy the episode.

About John

John Sweeney is changing the face of business through powerful, interactive keynotes that wow every single time. John shines a light on the important role mindset and everyday behavior play in an organization’s ability to capitalize on change, drive employee engagement, and build customer relationships. For 18+ years he has been helping forward-thinking global companies look beyond the skills and tools they invest in and truly move the needle by including mindset and behavior in their strategy. John shines in front of executive level audiences, and is consistently ranked as the top speaker – both in style and substance. Not to mention that he is hilarious. You can see clips from some of John’s talks here.

About The Innovative Mindset

The Innovative Mindset calls the accepted definition of innovation into question, urging you to consider how innovation might function as a behavior that you perpetuate, rather than an inflexible theory or corporate-defined initiative. By asking yourself what it takes to be innovative—and by being honest with yourself about the answer—you can incorporate innovation into your life much in the same way that you would a behavior to help you lose weight, increase your strength, learn to play the piano, or improve your relationships.

About The Brave New Workshop

Founded in 1958 by Dudley Riggs, the Brave New Workshop (BNW) has grown to include the longest running satirical and improv comedy theatre in the U.S., a pioneering institute for personal development, a thriving corporate training business, and top business speakers. BNW’s unique and interactive learning experiences transform people’s thinking and behavior for the better through a laughter-filled methodology stemming from 20+ years of helping Fortune 500 clients deliver meaningful training that moves the needle for their people. More and better ideas, more collaboration, more discovery, less fear — that’s what the BNW stands for. Their world-class facilitators deliver live and virtual thought-provoking sessions helping professionals discover how to increase their organizations’ ability to perform and thrive in complex, unpredictable, business environments.


John’s character and fundraising for Smile Network International – Jiggly Boy

Brave New Workshop’s overview of improv – https://vimeo.com/164371000

Episode produce by Spark Consulting Group (www.inspiredbyspark.com) in Iowa City, with support from Executive Podcast Solutions (https://www.executivepodcastsolutions.com/)

The Iowa Idea Podcast music written and performed by Paisley Bible.