February 19, 2015

Interviews: Kelly Leonard & Tom Yorton on Business and Books

By: Blyth Meier @ 8:58 AM – Filed under: Innovation & Creativity, Marketing & Sales

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.


You can read our review of the book, and see what they had to say about some of the major themes in the book in our Q&A with them yesterday.


Pick up a copy of Yes, And, then find out more about Second City Works on their website.


About Blyth Meier

Blyth Meier joined us to lead our marketing department in 2015 after doing that work for the Milwaukee Film Festival for the previous five years. While she made good use her filmmaking degree at that job, here she returns to her first love—books. As an undergraduate English major at the University of North Dakota, Blyth’s favorite time of year was the annual Writers Conference, which brought many of her soon-to-be favorite authors to the remote Northern Prairie: Peter Matthiessen, August Wilson, Toi Derricotte, Mark Doty, Natasha Trethewey, and Terry Tempest Williams. Blyth lives in the Riverwest neighborhood of Milwaukee, where she gardens, cooks, takes photographs, makes films, and participates in a yearly 24-hour bike race. At 800-CEO-READ, she runs our social media accounts, writes for In the Books, and is the keeper of all our marketing spreadsheets.