We’ve got enough comedians here already….

ain practitionerBy 

The fact that Applied Improvisation can have a great impact on organisations is no longer in question. There has been a huge amount of research done by universities, business schools, and independent academics, and the findings are unassailable. Applied Improv is a fast-track, high-impact, experiential route into better teamwork and collaboration, improved leadership, increased emotional intelligence, and stronger engagement. Which in turn leads irrefutably to better-performing teams, greater productivity, and an improved bottom line.

You can find links to some of this research here.

There are no shortage of companies in the USA who have embraced Applied Improv as a training methodology. Google, PepsiCo, Goodwill International, Uber and Facebook to name just a few. Likewise, leading business schools are incorporating Applied Improv into their curricula, including UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, MIT’s Sloan School of Management and Columbia Business School.

Europe is also a hotbed of Applied Improv, with companies providing training in Holland, Germany, France, Denmark, and elsewhere.

So why is it that a typical response from a UK company is “Improv? No thanks, we’ve got enough comedians here already”.

Perhaps the Brits are wary of anything that looks showy or different. Maybe all those years of sitting in training rooms staring at mind-dulling powerpoint slides has made the UK corporate world suspicious of any training that could actually be considered fun or engaging.

Or could it be that the news just hasn’t reached here yet, that we are a bit behind the curve. If so, perhaps now is just the time for you to gain the advantage.  Contact me today to find out how Applied Improv can help you, your team, your company and your associates.

 

Is there anything that Applied Improv can’t Improve?

By Jon Trevor

Last week I was lucky enough to be at the Applied Improvisation Network’s fantastic conference at Keble College in Oxford.  There were 250 practitioners from around the world sharing their experience of the extraordinary power of Applied Improvisation to bring about amazing shifts, changes and improvements in an astonishing variety of ways.

There are people all around the world using the tools of Applied Improv for (stand by for a lot of clicking!):

Humanitarian work with NGOs

Social Inclusion Projects (in Dutch – you might need Google Translate)

Managing Organisational Change

Emotionally Intelligent Leadership

Agile/Scrum Software Development

Language Teaching

Training in Business Schools

Crisis training for Disaster Response

Negotiation Training

Medical Teams

Improved teamwork within organisations

and a multitude of further applications.  Is there anything that Applied Improv can’t Improve?

Improv Initiative can bring these same benefits to your team, organisation, training room or project.  Contact me for more details.  I would love to show you the power of Applied Improv.

Let’s speak soon!

Jon

The Improv Connection - Get Relational

By Jon Trevor

How well does your team relate?

I recently had the delightful privilege of co-delivering “Right Here, Right Now” a ground-breaking Applied Improvisation training day for psychotherapists. This was a partnership programme, between Improv Initiative and Cascade Therapy.

If I may blow our trumpet just briefly, this is what one participant said – “I absolutely loved the day. Thanks so much. Your joint delivery created the most enjoyable CPD I’ve ever taken part in. It was also really thought provoking”.

“So what’s that got to do with me”? I hear you ask.I’m no psychotherapist”.

Here’s what. The day was dedicated to using the skills of Applied Improv to enhance the quality of the working relationship between client and therapist. Research* shows that the type of training a therapist has had, and the theoretical models they use, bear little influence on the outcome for the client. What matters, the factor that makes all the difference, is the quality of the connection between the two of them.

“I’m still waiting to hear what’s that got to do with me,” you say.

Well, research in the corporate world shows that the same principle applies to management and leadership.**  Whatever your sector, whatever your role, whatever kind of work your team undertakes, a team member’s performance is directly linked to their relationship with the team leader.  The better the quality of the connection between the leader and each individual team member, the higher the levels of performance, engagement, and satisfaction.

So for higher-functioning, better-performing, more productive, engaged and satisfied teams, the answer could well be an Applied Improvisation intervention.

Contact me to find out more.

* Lynch, Margaret McCoy (2012).

** Ilies, Nahrgang & Morgeson, (2007).

Surrounded by Geniuses!

geniusBy Jon Trevor

There is a tenet that is used throughout the Improv world that goes “Your skill level is average – your fellow players are all geniuses!”

It is useful for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, it takes the pressure off you as an individual on stage. You are not stressing yourself to be brilliant, original, funny, creative. Your only job is to be there to support the geniuses that surround you, which even an average player can do.

Secondly, by assuming your fellow players are all geniuses, you pay very careful attention to all their contributions, treat them with respect, and build upon them.

Of course, each of your fellow players is doing the same thing, so they will in turn be treating you as a genius.  Having your ideas positively accepted and valued will encourage your creative juices, and help you produce more excellent work.  This way true creative collaboration unfolds, and the magic of Improv happens.

Now apply this principle to your working environment.  Imagine the results if you, and everyone you work with, behaved as if surrounded by geniuses.  Treated each other’s ideas and contributions as golden. What couldn’t be achieved…?

Applied Improv can turn your workplace into a hotbed of genius.  Take the Improv Initiative

 

Improv - Mindfulness for Restless People

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Could Improv be an answer to the modern diseases of Information Overload and Stress?

Mindfulness is the buzzword of our times.  And not without good reason. Those of us with busy working lives spend a lot of our mental energy rehashing the recent past to appraise it,  or planning our next killer move in the future - and while we spin our cerebral wheels this way, our mental motors are burning out.  This makes us far less effective at work, and life generally much less pleasurable than it could be.

As a society we have finally noticed that our wellbeing requires downtime as an antidote to the constant flood of information, sounds, and images that bombard us, and the thoughts that constantly ricochet round our heads.  There is much evidence that practicing mindfulness is a good way to reduce this mental stress and redress the balance.  Most mindfulness techniques are based on meditation, and require sitting quietly, stilling the mind, observing the breath, noticing the small details around us.  All well and good – but for some of us sitting quietly carries its own stresses.  We are not all made for Buddha-like stillness – some of us are at our best when in motion, in flow.

And that’s where Improv comes in.  I believe that Improv is Mindfulness for the Restless.  As I have written before, improvisation requires that we notice everything. The best Improv comes not from great plans, not from great ideas, but from great noticing.  Improv training, including Applied Improv, teaches us to quieten our fears, shut off our need to control, dampen the logical, thinking parts of our brain, and simply notice what is happening around us in great detail.  Then we respond, truly in the moment, to whatever we see and hear.

This, of course, is also the epitome mindfulness, even if achieved by different route.  Not only is Improv fun, not only does it produce laughter, joy and a great sense of freedom, but it can actively teach us to be truly present, truly here and now, truly mindful, with all the known benefits that brings.

Take the Improv Initiative, and discover Mindfulness for Restless People.

Notice Everything - using applied improv to build agile companies

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Ask a casual observer what they think the key skill of improvisation is, and the chances are they’ll say something like “quick thinking” or “wit” or “having a creative mind.” Actually, while these are all helpful assets, none of them are what improvisation is truly built on.  The absolute fundamental activity of improv is – noticing.  Noticing everything – what is being said, and what is not being said; who and what is around you, and in what mood or state; what they are doing, both consciously and unconsciously; what is happening at this moment, in real time.   Not what you wish was happening;  not what you are imagining, planning or scripting in your head;  what is actually occurring, in reality, right here and right now.

Because when you are working collectively without a script, which is what improvisers do, you can only co-create effectively with your fellow players if everyone is on the “same page”, and that means everyone noticing everything that everyone else is doing, even the stuff we normally filter out.  Especially the stuff we normally filter out.  That’s why we say in Improv “everything is an offer”.

The same is just as true in the off-stage world.  If, for example, an organisation wants to be agile, responsive, and able to adapt quickly to the needs of customers and the market – in other words, able to improvise -  then it needs to truly notice what is going on.  It needs to hear what customers and stakeholders are saying, see what competitors are doing, realise what else is trending, understand what employees are thinking and feeling.  Not what it wishes or hopes were true.  Not what the PR department tells the world. Not what the CEO decrees.  It needs to notice the reality, the truth, contained in all the offers that surround it.  Only then can it do what improvisers do best – build on those offers to create something better.

Take the Improv Intiative, and learn to notice more.

Teamwork vs Collaboration

Jazz bandThe terms “Teamwork” and “Collaboration” are often used interchangeably.  I believe they are very different beasts.

Formula One Pit Crews are fabulous examples of the ultimate team. They can change all 4 wheels of a racecar in an almost inconceivable 2 seconds, through meticulously planned, finely choreographed and endlessly rehearsed co-operative action. They epitomise the elements of good Teamwork which are:

  • a well-defined shared goal
  • a clear hierarchy, or a leader who directs the activity
  • everyone working optimally in allocated and defined roles
  • measurable outcomes on a known scale, so that improvement can be quantified

Jazz musicians and Improvisers, on the other hand, demonstrate what Collaboration is all about.  Through a process of listening, flexibility, mutual support and a willingness to explore, they co-create something totally new, without any single person directing the process.  They move together into the unknown, to see what will emerge.  They find success through risking failure.  The elements of true Collaboration are:

  • no preconceived end result
  • fluid, changing leadership as needed
  • no fixed roles – everyone participates
  • no predefined outcomes, no quantitative scale

Unlike Teamwork, Collaboration requires genuine belief that everyone’s input in deciding the outcome is valid, and that through mutual support and trust, something may emerge that is greater than any single person’s imaginings.

Good Teamwork is of course a vital ingredient for any organisation that aspires to reach its goals and fulfil its targets. All organisations should cultivate excellent Teamwork.  But Teamwork can only produce what has been previously planned and envisioned. To come up with something new, innovative, unexpected, or ground-breaking, then Collaboration is also required, and that level of mutual trust and willingness to risk are rarely seen in most corporate settings.

Applied Improv can teach your Team Players how to also be true Collaborators, and to understand how to operate and innovate within uncertainty.

Take the Improv Initiative.

 

Do The Impossible – With Ease!

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impossible-objects-optical-illusion-23There is an Applied Improv exercise I use quite a lot, called “Strawberry/Vanilla”. People mill randomly around the room, and every time two people pass each other, they make eye contact and simultaneously they say out loud either the word “Strawberry” or the word “Vanilla”. They must speak simultaneously, and, here’s the catch, they must both say the same word. Before we play, I’ll often ask people to estimate how successful they will be. The usual estimate is between 30% and 50%. The amazing thing is, once we have been playing for a while, I ask people what their success rate actually is, and it is always up around 90% – 95%. 
Think about it. Looked at rationally, it’s an almost impossible exercise. How can both people guess the right word to say practically every time? Can’t be done. Yet even fairly inexperienced improvisers quickly learn the trick of collaborating by offering and noticing tiny cues of eyes and mouth that help ensure they both make the same choice. It’s not magic, though it looks like it, it’s a heightened form of awareness, looking, listening, and commitment to working together.

Would you like your team to be able to perform the impossible, with ease? Collaborate effortlessly? Then take the Improv Initiative.

 

 

Make Brilliant Mistakes

ThomasEdisonJust because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless.” ― Thomas A. Edison

There is an understanding in all forms of Improvisation, whether it’s Jazz, Dance, or the kind of theatre and comedy I deal in, that there really is no such thing as a mistake.

There’s just an unexpected outcome.

And Jazz players, dancers and Improvisers will all tell you that the very best stuff comes from accepting those unexpected outcomes and building on them .

Do you allow yourself to make brilliant mistakes, and profit from them?  Or are you held back by fear of failure, paralysed by caution, unwilling to take the tiniest risk?

Learn to embrace and build on unexpected outcomes by taking the Improv Initiative.

What do Twitter, Pixar and Ideo have in common?

pixar_charactersBy 

Apart from being hugely successful that is?
The answer is that they have all embraced Improv into their culture.  They have all brought in Applied Improvisation specialists to help them create agile, collaborative and creative companies.  Perhaps that is why they are hugely successful.
Would you like your organisation to be more like these success stories?  Not only more able to respond to customers and marketplaces, not only more innovative, but a fun company that people love to work  for?