Daena Giardella

Senior Lecturer, MIT Leadership Center


Daena Giardella

Daena Giardella has dual backgrounds in the performing arts and in organizational development and coaching. An actor, director, teacher, and consultant, she has spent more than 25 years combining these disciplines and, in the process, pioneered an innovative method for teaching improvisation to people from virtually every profession. She designs professional training and educational programs that target leadership, influence, entrepreneurship, team building, creativity development, and presentation excellence.

From Boston to Brussels, prominent organizations and world-class companies have tapped Daena as an educator, executive leadership coach, and keynote speaker. She led an advanced training in Negotiation Improvisation for the European Commission and she taught a Skills Practicum for the Entrepreneurial Teacher at Babson College’s Symposia for Entrepreneurship Educators. Among her past consulting clients are the American Heart Association, Hewlett Packard, Citibank, Smith College Executive Education, Imagine Foods, Mass. W.I.C. Program, the United Nations Conference on Women in Copenhagen, Bentley College, Kodak, Berkeley College of Music, and the Royal Bank of Canada. She has also taught Improvisation and Influence for three years at MIT’s Sloan Innovation Period (SIP).

Daena has written, produced and performed in many original one-woman theater performances which have received wide critical acclaim throughout the United States and internationally. The Boston Globe has called her an "impressive talent" and The Tel Aviv Ha’eer wrote, "Giardella is a phenomenon... a classic actress." She is a member of the American Federation of Radio and Television Artists.

Daena’s myriad TV and radio appearances include The Cheryl Richardson Life Makeover Show on the Oxygen Network, where she was featured as a creativity coach as well as the PBS series Discovering Psychology, and Currents, a talk and interview radio show she hosted on the National Radio Network.

Daena co-authored a book called Changing Patterns: Discovering the Fabric of Your Creativity, and recorded a spoken word CD entitled Improvisation in Everyday Life.

Daena was also a faculty member at Emerson College for seven years and the Boston Conservatory for three years, and she co-founded TheraVision, an eleven-year video/theater process for training psychotherapists at David Kantor’s Family Institute. She was the director of a two-year theatre program for at-risk high school students at Boston’s Roxbury High School under a grant from Harvard University.

Daena has worked in dozens of schools systems and universities where she created original plays with students and implemented teacher-training workshops that help teachers and professors utilize creative teaching approaches in their respective subject areas. She has given diversity and anti-bullying workshops for teachers and students in many educational settings, including the New Mexico Human Rights Foundation.

Daena teaches numerous public workshops in improvisation, leadership, and creative process. She is also a presentation and media coach.

She has a Master of Liberal Arts (concentration in Dramatic Arts) from Harvard University.

Her website is www.daenagiardella.com.

Faculty Media

  • [Innovation@Work Blog] Workplace Negativity? Difficult Conversations? Turn to Improv

    At first blush, improv may not seem like an obvious leadership tool. Business often works best when knowledgeable leaders follow a script for getting feedback and fostering buy-in, notes MIT...

  • How Should Companies Operate in the Age of Trump?

    In the era of President Trump, business leaders and CEOs need to shift their sensemaking skills into high gear.

  • The Secret to Repairing a Broken Conversation

    "We’ve all been there. In the midst of a productive conversation with a colleague, something unexpected happens. It might be an awkward phrase or an unintended tone of voice, or maybe someone...

  • Secrets of Celebrity Companies—Daena Giardella

    Recent news stories have highlighted both the stratospheric success of some celebrity companies and also a set of well-documented problems with some celebrity companies.

  • From Failure to Success: Using Improvisation to Develop Leadership

    When we fear making a mistake or looking foolish, we are reluctant to take risks or to try new things. Since failure is inevitable in all human endeavors, it is important for future business...

  • Using Comedy Tools to Drive Creative Ideas and Serious Results

    “These abilities happen to be the fundamental skills of improvisation and many companies are gravitating towards improv training because it offers a hands-on ‘active learning’ experience that...

  • MBA Students Learn That All the Business World’s a Stage

    Schools are drawing lessons from the theatre to teach leadership and communication skills.

  • Using Improvisation to Develop Leadership

    MIT Sloan Lecturer Daena Giardella explains how improvisation can diminish fear and help people succeed.


Contact Information

Office: E62-417
Phone: (617) 715-4842
Email: daenag@mit.edu
Support Staff
Name: Ashley Langer
Phone: (617) 324-7368