Posts Tagged ‘improv’

Fostering Teamwork with Zip-Boing-SCHABLAMMY!!

Zip-Boing-Schablamy focusing exercise

Zip-Boing-Schablamy focusing exercise

January 20th is swiftly approaching.. I can’t think of a better way to spend a presidential administration change than to focus on your friends, teammates or co-workers.  ZIP-BOING-SCHBLAMY! is an attention focusing, teamwork centric game that is as ridiculous and fun as it sounds. If you can get your whole team in one room for 15-minutes this Friday, I recommend giving this game a try. If nothing else, you’ll have had 15 minutes of fun, smiles and laughter, and end up with a sharp, focused team!

This exercise is especially helpful for teams that are having a challenge loosening up with each other. Another great thing about Zip-Boing-Schblamy is that it completely stands on it’s own as an exercise. You don’t need a warm-up, give much of a preface, or anything. Just a team who is willing to give it a try. Giving your team permission to play a little, especially before a serious office meeting or client engagement can dramatically alter their mood and performance for the better.

ZIP-BOING-SCHBLAMY!: (a teamwork exercise by Improv Alive)
All in a circle. 1 person starts by pointing to their neighbor and saying “ZIP”, this continues until someone makes an ‘X’ with their forearms and says “BOING”, thus changing the direction of the action around the circle. Finally, one can send the focus across the circle by clap-pointing to anybody other than their direct neighbor and saying “SHABLAMY!”
The Knot Game

The only way out of the KNOT.. is to Improvise!

A great game for the tactile and kinesthetic group, The Knot is a great bonding exercise, and the only way to solve it is to work together, and to improvise..

The Knot: Everyone in a circle. All reach one arm into the middle of the circle (either arm), & take someone else’s hand. Then, everyone reach their other hand in and take the hand of another (nobody should be holding both the hands of another). Without anybody letting go of another’s hand, the group must work together to un-tie the human knot.
The Name Game

Get your team THINKING like a team with ‘THE NAME GAME’

Your workforce is under pressure. Each employee is doing the job of two, and the responsibility feels like stress. You’re starting to notice a drop in morale, which goes hand in hand with a drop in workforce efficiency.  Getting your leaders and teams to engage in improv at work is one of the best ways to turn stress to joy and boost morale.  Here’s another terrific, easy-to-play game that breaks the ice, encourages a team-centric focus, and is more fun than a photobombing seal: The Name Game is a simple, fun and effective game to be played by 6-30 people.  Here’s THREE versions of it to try out:

The Name Game I, II & III: 

Breaking the ice, Focus & Concentration (6+ people)

I. Everyone in a circle. Doug says his own name and points to Alice, Alice says her name and points at Brian.. until everybody’s name has been said several times.

II. Doug points at Alice and says her name, etc.. (if the wrong name is said, the pointed tells their name and we move on).

III. Begins by starting a rhythm (group snapping their fingers). Doug says his own name and Alice’s name, Alice says her name and Brian’s name.., hence passing the focus around the group in rhythm.

Breaking the Ice

An improvisation game to help break the ice at work:

Getting your teams at work to engage in theatrical improvisation is one of the best ways to break the ice when you’re introducing one group to another, or striving for more of a sense of teamsmenship within a group. Sometimes, the mere mention of the words “We’re gonna do Improv!” can strike fear in the hearts of many. It’s important to start the event with a game that is light, fun, and quickly defuses the angst. NAME & GESTURE is a simple, fun and effective game that I learned at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade in New York City.  Here’s how it works:

Name & Gesture: 

Everyone forms a large circle. The first (brave) person says their name and does an associated bodily gesture to accompany their name. For example, the 1st player (let’s say Scott) says “Scott”, and slaps his thigh. Then EVERYBODY in the circle repeats “SCOTT!” and slaps their own thigh.  Then, the player to the right of Scott, (let’s say, Ellen) says “SCOTT!” and slaps her thigh, and then says “ELLEN!”, and spins around in a circle.  1-by-1, all the way around the circle, each plays says the previous names & gestures of  all the previous players, ending with their own name & gesture.  This goes all the way around the circle. Finally one brave soul must do the names & gestures of the ENTIRE circle.

 

The Different Ways that Improv Speaks to Us

The Different Ways Improv Speaks to Us

The Different Ways Improv Speaks to Us

The Different Ways that Improv Speaks to Us:

 

In early December this month Improv Alive began offering a Business Improvisation boot camp for Puget Sound area businesses to send their employees to, in order to learn and practice some new and different communication & collaboration techniques. There were Business Consultants, Life Coaches, Marketing Directors, Tour Guides, and even a retired Fish & Wildlife Scientist! 14 people in all, and the range of personalities throughout the group couldn’t have been wider. It was a fun and successful morning of play and learning, and the reviews were positive, but one review caught me by surprise. I share it here:

 

“I wanted to just share an observation about my experience today in Boot Camp: What I noticed was that there were quite a few extroverts (makes sense for tour guides) who were really into the improvisational opportunities. In the moment, I recall feeling a little out of place, and I recall kind of taking a back seat, allowing others to just go for it while I hung back. After the workshop, I spoke to a number of the other attendees, and each of them complemented me on how outgoing and engaged I was during those same exercises. Thinking about this, I wonder which one happened. I wonder if you have any thoughts on this?”  

This feedback made me acutely aware of how differently one person may experience an improvisational engagement from another. An engaging teacher with a masterful lecture may take a fiendishly boring topic like.. Taxes, (sorry accountants), and create an intriguing lecture that inspires a diverse audience. The feedback would most likely be uniformly positive, the audience would have had similar praises and critiques, but they will all have experienced the same lecture.

 

In my experience as a teacher of improvisation for people who are not “improvisers”, this that the common experience phenomenon I mention above simply does not occur when one is engaging in Improvisation. The reason for his is that when one is engaged in the act of improvising, they are operating at an elevated state of consciousness, just as an athlete, or an artist is when they are in the midst of their performance. It’s called “the zone”. The person is said to be “in the zone”. When one is acting “in the zone”, there often occurs a kind of amnesic effect that literally changes, or more to the point, re-writes the participants’ recollection of the experience.

 

When leading corporate teams in improvisation workshops, I rely on the zone to help people overcome their inhibitions and escape self-judgment (because what difference does it make if they can’t even remember how bad or good they performed anyway?!)

 

IMPROV MADE PRACTICAL Q&A: Part III – WORK!.. What’s Improv got to do with it?

Q: How does Improvisation help corporations and their employees achieve a better working environment?

A: This is a recurring question that I have been grappling with an effective answer to for a long time.. Myself being an artist & business leader, I already get the power of improvisation to effect change in teams & organizations. I’ve seen it, been a part of it and I trust it. However, as a teacher of improvisation in the world of business and higher education, I am constantly in the position of conveying this value to business and academic leaders who are looking for something more.. concrete, specific. Less conceptual and general.

The world in to which I’m trying to bring improvisation is constantly looking for the solution to their specific problem(s), they want to define the ROI, they want to see an outline with benchmarks. I find it next to impossible to avoid trying to fit improv into a box in order to cause my prospective clients to realize the value of subjecting their employees, students or clients to improvisational workshops. Here is a Wednesday afternoon attempt.. a thought journey, if you will: I liken the practice of improvisation to the practice of lifting weights: You don’t pump iron just so you can lift weights better, you pump iron to tone your muscles which you will then use more efficiently in your daily life. In the same way, improvisation is not the result. It isn’t even the direct solution to the result. When people intentionally improvise, they use their brains in new and unfamiliar ways, and when these activities are introduced in the context of ’play‘, ‘fun‘ or ‘exploration‘, people tend to lower their defenses and engage. Practicing improvisation is all about listening, accepting & supporting other’s ideas, and building, building, building.

Is there anyone out there who would prefer less listening? Less supporting? Less building in their organization?
Finally, Pumping iron is SEXY, and so it’s commonly practiced. The practice of improvisation, however, is generally considered to be only for Artists or Comics. The more we can change this stigma, the more improvisation will be adopted in business, education, and the world.

IMPROV MADE PRACTICAL Q&A: (Part II)

Q: Aren’t un-scripted performances haphazard and chaotic?

A: When improv is done right, it can absolutely be chaotic, but not haphazard. A lot of people think that improv is just getting up and doing anything and everything that pops into their mind. Improvisation on the stage is totally free in that is has no script & no blocking (planed movement), however, within that freedom, there are general guidelines that improvisers follow that create a ‘framework’ in which we play. These guidelines keep us from “haphazard” performances. This framework consists of tools that force us to constantly and intensely listen to each other, and cause every action to be in support of the others on the team, rather than making one’s SELF look good. This is the key to making improv look good!

Bridging the gap between Business and Improvisation

Bridging the gap between Business and Improvisation

Bridging the gap between Business and Improvisation

There is a recurring question that I have been grappling with an effective answer to now for almost a year. Myself being an artist & business leader, I already get the power of improvisation to effect change in teams & organizations. I’ve seen it, been a part of it..  I trust it!  

However, as a teacher of improvisation in the world of business and higher education, I am constantly in the position of conveying this value to business and academic leaders who are looking for something more.. concrete, specific. Less conceptual and general.

The world in to which I’m trying to bring improvisation is constantly looking for the solution to their specific problem(s), they want to define the ROI, they want to see an outline with benchmarks. I find it next to impossible to avoid trying to fit improv into a box in order to cause my prospective clients to realize the value of subjecting their employees, students or clients to improvisational workshops. Here is a Saturday morning attempt.. a thought journey, if you will: I liken the practice of improvisation to the practice of lifting weights: You don’t pump iron just so you can lift weights better, you pump iron to tone your muscles which you will then use more efficiently in your daily life. In the same way, improvisation is not the result. It isn’t even the direct solution to the result. When people intentionally improvise, they use their brains in new and unfamiliar ways, and when these activities are introduced in the context of ‘play‘, ‘fun‘ or ‘exploration‘, people tend to lower their defenses and engage. Practicing improvisation is all about listening, accepting & supporting other’s ideas, and building, building, building.

Is there anyone out there who would prefer less listening? Less supporting? Less building in their organization?

Finally, Pumping iron is SEXY, and so it’s commonly practiced. The practice of improvisation, however, is generally considered to be only for Artists or Comics. The more we can change this stigma, the more improvisation will be adopted in business, education, and the world. Julian Schrenzel Improv-Alive.com 206-437-9455 julian@improv-alive.com

Business Lessons from the Stage

Improvisation and Communication Class

Improvisation Lessons

Can the tools used, and principals gained from practicing theatrical improvisation help ordinary people to rediscover their extraordinary ability to communicate, to make decisions, and to lead? This is the question that came to me in my first days of Improv training at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade, one of New York City’s well-known improvisation schools for actors. In order for a group of actors to perform on stage successfully, each actor must adopt a few simple but powerful principles: Listen with your whole body. Be in a state of agreement and build on what your scene partner is creating. Silence your self-judging inner critic. Own, celebrate, and share failure. Having come to improvisation from a career in IT, Technical training and Recruiting, it seemed to me that many of the skills one needs to create a good stage improvisation are very much the same skills one needs to be successful in business. The principles seemed so basic, so universal, so easy, yet so powerful! I wondered why they had remained vastly un-adopted in the business world today. When I moved back to Seattle in 2007, I began exploring how I might pass along the skills I had learned in my improvisation training to “regular people” in a non-scary, but engaging way. My first improv class, which I taught through the Seattle Free School, consisted partially of actors and partly of non-actors, including professionals from Microsoft, AT&T and REI. It became clear to me as class progressed, that the students who seemed to be getting the most out of the sessions were the non-actors. I went on to teach subsequent improv classes, and the more I taught, the clearer it became to me that the ones who were consistently finding abilities within themselves that they never knew they had, were the ones who had never explored improvisation. Repeatedly, I was told by these students how they wished they could bottle this stuff up and take it to work. So why is it that the skills gained from improvisation remain relatively unknown in the business world? In my experience, the answer can be summed up in three words: FEAR OF FAILURE. At some point between toddler-hood and adolescence, many people become conditioned to hide their mistakes and apologize when they don’t perform the way they think they’re expected to. They often forget the gift they were endowed with at birth. Yes, creativity comes as standard equipment in humans. So, the trick to fostering creativity in an individual or organization is to create, through improvisational play, an environment in which each person allows themself to rediscover their creativity by breaking down their self-imposed limits, and in doing so, unleashing their innate creativity.

What is Improv-Alive?

IMPROV-ALIVE!I believe that creativity comes as standard equipment in humans. The trick to fostering creativity in an organization is to find a way to allow each person to discover that creativity within themselves. This is a scary thing for almost everybody to do! We all seem to have this deep fear of failure.  “Screwing up” is almost always not an option, and the more responsibility one has, the higher one’s position in an organization, the more pressure is on that person to “perform well”. So, along the way, we become conditioned to hide our mistakes and apologize when we don’t perform the way we think we’re expected to. This is where many of us forget the gift we were given at birth. Luckily, this is also where the magical fundamentals of improvisation step in to restore that understanding. If you want to make your muscles stronger what do you have to do? Exercise them. If you want to be able to play the Moonlight Sonata on the piano, what must you do? Practice, make mistakes, practice, make mistakes, and practice some more. If you want to be more creative, be a better communicator in your place of work! It’s no secret – you must exercise and practice! ~ Julian Schrenzel, Improv-Alive.com