The new year is on our doorstep. Is one of your new year’s resolutions to lead more efficient, effective team meetings? SLAP & CLAP is an extremely versatile and fun corporate team focusing improv exercise that promises to prime your team for an energized and positive kickstart to any meeting. Taking it’s inspiration from PASS THE FOCUS (see our last blog entry), SLAP & CLAP adds an additional level of complexity into the mix, requiring a higher focus and concentration by each player. SLAP & CLAP is all about maintaining a CONSTANT, DISTRIBUTED FOCUS on each player while the game is in play. It is a terrific add-on to PASS THE FOCUS, to continue developing an ice-breaking, team bonding company culture. The greatest thing about this improvisation game is its ability to occupy your employees senses so fully, there is no option for anything but positive, joyus engagement, (which is what this season is all about, right?)
This exercise is especially helpful for teams that tend to get bogged down in negative dialogue in meetings. We suggest preceding SLAP & CLAP with PASS THE FOCUS, allowing your team to first become acquainted with the simpler version before attempting this slightly more involved version.
Engaging your team in or out of the corporate office in a quick 5-10 minute session of SLAP & CLAP, especially before an important meeting, or collaborative event can dramatically boost the energy and positivity of the overall experience. This game works equally well for Vice Presidents, HR Managers, Business Development Specialists, Consultants, and support professionals alike! Enjoy and Happy Holidays & New Year from Improv Alive.
SLAP AND CLAP:All players stand in a circle. 1 player starts by either slapping his RIGHT thigh (sending focus to the right), slapping his LEFT thigh (sending focus to the left), OR establishing eye contact and clapping once in unison with anyone in the circle (other than immediate neighbor on either side). Then that person either SLAPS or CLAPS, thus sending the focus on to another, etc.. The idea is to establish a rhythm and always keep your focus broad so you are open and ready to establish a connection with anybody in the circle to slap or clap in rhythm.
Company Team Building, Communication, Improv Alive exercise
Despite a most unfortunate name, this is possibly the greatest teamwork-fostering, ice-breaking, group-energizing warm-up improv game ever created. We at Improv Alive like this game so much, we try to incorporate it, in one form or another, into almost every business improvisation workshop we lead. Pass the Clap is all about shifting your focus from internal (introspective), to external (extrospective), out to the other members of the team. It is a terrific ice-breaker and bonding exercise, but the real power of this exercise is in its ability to cause each player to forget about how embarrassed he or she is to be doing improv in front of his company co-workers, and focus fully on what everybody else is doing, and how he can keep the exercise going!
This exercise is especially helpful for teams that are challenged communicating with each other. We strongly advise engaging your team in or out of the office in a quick 5-10 minute session of Pass the Clap before an important meeting, or collaborative event in order to start things off with an extra boost of energy and team focus. This game works equally well for CEO’s, managers, sales professionals, customer service reps, developers and librarians alike! Enjoy and Happy Holidays from Improv Alive.
PASS THE CLAP (aka: PASS THE FOCUS):All participants in a circle. Doug establishes eye contact with anyone in the circle and he leads that person in a single unison CLAP. Then that person makes eye contact with another random person in the circle and leads that person in a single unison clap, and so on.. the ‘Clap’ (or Focus) gets passed randomly around the circle. The idea is to establish a rhythm and always keep your body ready, your energy high and your focus broad, so you are open and ready to establish eye contact and clap on rhythm.For an additional challenge, try it while moving randomly around the space.
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.
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.
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.
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.