We aren’t artistic or creative type people. Is an Improv Alive workshop going to be beneficial for us?

When I returned to Seattle in 2007 from New York City, I began exploring how I might teach others the skills I had learned from my training in improvisation in a non-scary, but engaging way. The first classes I taught was with the Seattle Free School that consisted almost entirely of non-actor people. Since then, I’ve worked with corporate professionals from Microsoft, AT&T and REI, grandparents, high school students and homeless folks. To my surprise, I learned that the participants who seemed to get the most out of the sessions were the non-actor folks who were consistently finding abilities within themselves that they never knew they had. I kept hearing, over and over again, how they wished that they could bottle this up and take it to their departments at work, their families, and their communities.

Fast forward to today… We’ve lead over 250 improvisation-based workshops at every level of an organization. From CEO’s, software developers, customer support reps, sales executives and administrative assistants to consultants, accountants, MBA students and religious professionals all across the US. To date, I have not had a participant or a team fail to engage and get something positive, something beneficial from the experience. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past 6 years of leading teams and individuals in this work, it’s that the principles we bring to every workshop that we create and deliver are simple, powerful and universally applicable.

What is an Improv Team Building workshop actually like?

Because a picture is worth a thousand words, like me begin by offering you a series of videos devoted to giving you a visual introduction to what an Improv Alive business improvisation workshop will be like to experience. In 2017, we produced a couple of entertaining, but informative videos that I’d like to share with you. One is on Leadership and Teambuilding, and the other is on Conflict management. Still, there are several more we have produced over the past five years that are certainly worth giving a watch if you’re interested in a little bit more of an audio/video immersion. All of our videos are in our video library.

Like traditional team building, an Improv Alive workshop can feel a little bit scary. Stretching social boundaries with co-workers is not a comfortable thing to do, but unlike traditional team and skills building, our workshops empower participants to be open, authentic, trusting and confident.

Improv Alive workshops bring powerful concepts and exercises from the world of improvisational theater (improv) to regular people who may never have stepped on a stage in their lives. In our workshops, we create a safe space for people to make mistakes, celebrate failure, and become aware of how they interact with, and react to each other, making their workplace a place of collaboration and collaborative empowerment.

How do you define ‘improvisation’ and how can we use it in our daily work?

Improvisation is what we all do every day; it’s simply interacting and functioning in the world without a pre-determined plan of action. When was the last time you “scripted” your day? ..Me neither. We’re all improvisers all the time. Most of what makes improvisation seem difficult is that we believe that it’s difficult. Once we see through that myth, we can start to experience the powerful tool that improv is in our day to day interactions, both professional and personal.

My team is fragmented and untrusting of each other. How do we gain/regain trust in this team?

When a bunch of “non-improv” people engage in improvisation, it often starts with most people feeling anxious or nervous about doing something they think will be very difficult, and will take a special kind of ‘artistic mind’. Once they realize that the goal of every exercise is not to perform ‘correctly’ and that we’re really just playing, the nerves calm down and give way to curiosity and true engagement. This transition from fear to fun is when all the benefits start to happen. In an Improv Alive workshop, it is made crystal clear in the beginning that the only goal is to engage in what’s going on. In other words, I want them to MESS UP. When they’re given license to fail, and they know that everybody in the room has the same license, then the pressure is removed and people begin to let themselves play. That’s how the ice is broken and the seeds of trust are sown.

What are the most important principles of improvisation to bring to the corporate world?

There are many, but here are 6 whoppers:

  1. REDEFINE FAILURE:  The moment you realize that you can choose how you react to failure is the moment that failure will become something from which you can learn and gain.
  2. Listen. No, REALLY Listen: Humans have five physical senses. Hearing is only one of them, but LISTENING requires at least two at a time.
  3. Ditch Perfectionism: Mistakes are an invaluable part of the human experience. Consider the invention of Penicillin, Potato Chips, Fireworks, and the Slinky.. All accidents! Boo-yah!!
  4. Play more: Side effects include increased cognitive function, lowered blood pressure, improved motor response, improved problem-solving skills and more FRIENDS.
  5. Refocus to the Present: It’s easy to let your mind drift or become distracted from the person or task that you’re with right now. Stop and gently refocus.
  6. Take 1 single ACTION Today: No matter how small, how easy, commit to one single ACT (not plan, not research, but an actual “DO”).

Improvisers talk about “Yes-And” a lot. What is this concept about?

“Yes And” is a concept from the improv stage. Its application is what makes the rapid creation/invention that occurs on the improv stage possible. “Yes And” is all about acceptance and addition. Consider for your next team meeting, devoting the entire meeting to employing a “Yes And” mindset with everybody in that meeting, for the duration of that meeting. This is not to say be a “Yes person”, going along with every suggestion that everybody says. A “Yes And” mindset is ACCEPTANCE = Regardless of if you subscribe to or agree with what’s being said, find a way to respond in any way other than one that is a shut-down of the other person. For example, you may know that adding an additional wing to the office is simply not possible in the 2018 budget, but rather than saying “That is not possible. We don’t have the budget for it.”, consider expressing agreement that things are cramped here in the office, AND offer your sincere desire (and perhaps a timeline) to work closely with them to come up with some good short-term solutions that will address and remedy this very valid problem. This is the ‘Yes And’ mindset, and it works because it shows the person your interacting with that you are actually listening to them, and that you honor them as evidenced by the fact that you see their concern as valid and you’re willing to take action on it, or even just continue the conversation on it.

If you have a question that’s not listed above, please get in touch! We’ve heard them all over the years and would be happy to help!