Q: Most people will tell you there is lack of trust in many working environments. One of the main foundations of improv is trust. How do you “break the ice” and have colleagues gain trust in eachother in your workshops?
A: 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 is VERY hard, and takes a special kind of ‘artistic mind’. Once they realize that what we’re really doing is just playing a bunch of games and having fun, the nerves calm down and give way to fun and silliness. This transition from fear to fun is when all the benefits start to happen. In a workshop, it is made crystal clear in the beginning that their goal is 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. Here are a couple of great trust-building exercises you might try with your teams before your next meeting:
Team walks randomly around the room. Periodically and randomly, someone says “Hey, Let’s _____!” Everybody enthusiastically replies, “YES! Let’s _____!!” and all begin doing that thing until the next random person yells, “Hey, Let’s _____!” Everybody enthusiastically replies, “YES! Let’s _____!!” and all begin doing that thing, etc…
THE TAKE AWAY: This game is not only hilarious to play, but also introduces a culture of agreement and support in your meeting.
Each team has exactly five minutes to create an ad campaign for an
ordinary product that does something ABSOLUTELY EXTRAORDINARY.
Each group must come up with an entire marketing strategy AND finished
commercial. Specifically, they must come up with: a name for the product,
a package design, a slogan, a spokesperson from the team designated to
lead them in the pitch, and they must come up with, and perform a jingle
(which all members of the team must participate).
Naturally, the only way to do this in five minutes is through complete and
total agreement. No negative thinking is allowed. Every idea should be
accepted enthusiastically and remembered, each step is built off the
previous idea. After five minutes, each team stands in front of the whole
group “the audience”, and presents their pitch, (to thunderous applause
and support from the audience!)
THE TAKE AWAY: The Advertisers is high energy and thoroughly entertaining for all involved. It requires agreement, non self-judgement, and creation.
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.
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