Kelly Leonard & Tom Yorton on Business and Books
February 19, 2015
Kelly Leonard & Tom Yorton, authors of Yes, And, talk about the books that have influenced them and what they're reading now.
What is the one unanswered question about business you are most interested in answering?
KELLY: If everyone operated ethically and in consideration of outcomes that benefited the greater good, what would the profit margin look like?
TOM: Why do people behave differently in business than in their personal lives? What is gained by having a "business you" and a "you you"? What is lost? (Sorry, that's three.)
What book has influenced your work the most?
KELLY: Improvisation for the Theater by Viola Spolin. This is the playbook for modern improvisation. It is the source code for innovation and collaboration.
TOM: The Future and Its Enemies by Virginia Postrel. She talks about stasists (people who don't want change) and dynamists (people who are more at ease with change and the unknown) and describes the beauty of spontaneous order that emerges in groups of free people. Improvisation is simultaneously dynamism in action and a useful response to a chaotic world.
What is the book you wish you had written and why?
KELLY: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Starting out, I wanted to be a playwright and novelist. That particular novel is one of the most beautiful, smart, painful, rich and textured pieces of literature that's ever been written.
TOM: The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. The book is about the saving power of stories and the burdens we all carry in life, and I find his prose breathtaking.
What book are you reading right now?
KELLY: I'm reading American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company. This was recommended to me by my colleague Diane Alexander and it's an incredible tale – not only of American business, but of the strength and smarts of an individual to transform a business culture.
Next in the cue is Nick Hornby's Funny Girl, which I can't wait to start.
TOM: Give and Take by Adam Grant. It's about the power of generosity in business and life, about the tangible benefits that accrue when people give more than they take. It's even more interesting to me because I've met Adam and he exudes this spirit to all.
Also, just finished Andrea Martin's wonderful memoir Lady Parts. A wonderful, funny book about a remarkably talented Second City alum.