Incorporating Improv in the Workplace

Improvisational theater or improv is a form of theater in which much of what is performed is unplanned or unscripted. Think “Whose Line is it Anyway?” or shows you might see at your local comedy club. As it turns out, improv doesn’t have to be limited to the stage. There can be many benefits to incorporating improv exercises and principles at the office.

The Power of “Yes, And…”

“Yes, and…” is the golden rule of improv and is all about positive affirmation. For example, if you’re in a scene with someone and they exclaim, “The asteroid is heading straight for Earth!” you wouldn’t respond, “No it’s not, and we’re not even on Earth,” or the scene would effectively be dead. Instead, you’d have to build upon the idea, no matter how outlandish. You might say, “Yes, and we need to build a rocket ship before it hits!”

This principle can be extremely useful when carried into to the office, as it establishes a positive and creative environment where people feel more comfortable contributing their ideas. This is especially true in brainstorm sessions. When no idea is dismissed, but is instead built upon, people are more likely to toss out bolder and more creative ideas.

Boosts Confidence

Taking risks and getting out of your comfort zone is crucial in any improv exercise. It creates a judgement free environment where no idea is shut down or “too crazy.” It can help introverts come out of their shell, while reducing anxiety around office communication. It can also help sharpen public speaking skills and is a great exercise in performing under pressure. This comes in handy in any business, but especially in an agency setting.

More Productive Meetings

Improv is all about being present and in the moment – reacting and listening to what your scene partner is saying. Scenes can quickly derail if one person isn’t actively paying attention to what the other is saying, so focus is key. In addition to greater focus, it can encourage a more open environment, making it easier for people to speak up during meetings.

Prepare for the Unexpected

This can be especially useful for any surprises that pop up at work. If a presentation goes wrong or technology fails; if there’s a crisis that needs to be solved ASAP; or, if you’re asked a question you weren’t expecting – improv teaches you to be calm under pressure and really think on your feet. These skills can also come in handy during a job interview. There’s only so much you can prepare when going into an interview. There’s always that one question that comes out of left field and requires serious improvisation to be able to think of the answer and also tie it back to why the company should hire you.

Games, Games, Games!

Not sure where to start? Improv games are great icebreakers and excellent for getting team members warmed up before a brainstorming session. Harvard Business Review gives some great examples of improv games you can try with your team.

Do you think this is a fit for your team? Give improv a try and let us know how it goes!

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