Harvard Business School, Sandpaper Suit, and Chris Rock's small experiments

Whoa, Sandpaper Suit got a shoutout at the Harvard Business School blog. Here: "Innovate Like Chris Rock." In it, Peter Sims, author of a book on leadership, refers to my post about watching Rock work out new material. Here's what Sims wrote:

We can all innovate like Chris Rock. Consider his process and methods.

First, he picks small venues where he can do rapid, low-risk experiments with new material. In gearing up for his latest global tour, he made between 40 and 50 appearances at a small venue called the Stress Factory in New Brunswick, New Jersey, not far from where he lives. Rock told the Orange Country Register, "It's like boxing training camp. I always pick a comedy club to work out in."

In front of audiences of say 30 to 40 people, Rock will bring a yellow legal note pad with lots of joke ideas scribbled on it, according to fellow comedian Matt Ruby. In sets that run say 45 minutes, many of the jokes will fall flat, but according to Ruby, "There were 5-10 lines during the night that were just ridiculously good. Like lightning bolts. My sense is that he starts with these bolts and then writes around them."

It's all part of a process. When the material falls flat, Rock will even pause to say things like, "This needs to be fleshed out more if it's gonna make it."

In an eerie way, Chris Rock innovates like Amazon does. Amazon led by founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has continuously used experiments to identify unique growth opportunities beyond the company's core book business - such as the Kindle, Amazon stores, and elastic cloud computing.


Ah, ol' Mortimer the Steel Baron would be so proud — though he's more of a Wharton man really.

FYI, several of the bits Rock was working on at the time wound up in his "Kill The Messenger" special. Overall, I thought KTM was funny but not as great as his first couple of HBO specials. And the rapid-fire cuts between the different shows really sucked. Didn't it occur to anyone at HBO that kind of chop suey editing might fuck with the timing?

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3 Comment(s)

Blogger Abbi Crutchfield said...

All right!

2/3/09, 12:06 PM  
Blogger Jay said...

Congratulations on the mention. That's pretty cool!

Side point--the links in the pocket haven't loaded the last couple of times I've looked at your blog. I figure you know about this, but if you don't, it's a heads up.

2/3/09, 1:24 PM  
Blogger Neil Constantine said...

Yeah. They also should have thought about his outfits being the same. That made the cuts the most noticeable and distracting from the material.

2/4/09, 5:10 AM  


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