facilitating & hosting

Sharing Improv

I recently joined the online community that is the Applied Improvisation Network, a community of practitioners and clients who value the use of improvisation skills in organizations to improve relationships, increase authenticity, promote spontaneity, foster trust and build communities of practice. I’m no expect in improv but am borrowing from it more and more in my workshops and facilitation work. When I filled out my profile for the AIN it asked for a favourite improv epiphany, and this was what I shared:

Goes back years ago, and I can’t remember the where or the when, only the epiphany. It was the fundamental “yes, and”. Learning that tiny phrase nudged my thinking in a whole new direction – my path forever changed. Fast forward many years and I used that same phrase this summer as one principle in a diverse strategic planning session and it was magic. Thank you improv!

Fast forward to May of this year when I journeyed to Viv McWater’s blog and this post which sparked me to order this book. Reconnecting with the possibility of improv has served me well. Here are a few ways:

  • In the strategic planning sessions, the “yes, and” formed one of our principles for meeting well. One participant shared that it changed the conversations he was having at work and at home, beyond our planning sessions.
  • In a workshop that focuses on conversations, I invite managers to play a word game to help them focus on listening until the very end of someone’s sentence. (Reminds me of a tweet I saw this week that described effective listening as “not knowing what you’ll reply before the other is through speaking”. Brilliance!)
  • One of the managers from that conversations workshop took the same word game back to her team and they played it at a weekly meeting. She was so jazzed by the energy that she wanted more, more, more, to which I gladly linked her to this wonderful encyclopedia.
  • Then just last week I was on a conference call where a group was lamenting the lack of story in some recognition kudos. I remembered seeing Viv’s post about the story spine and passed it along. A few days later a fantastic email arrived from a manager. Turns out he used the story spine to recognize a staff member at a meeting, and it resulted in everyone spontaneously high-fiving the guy. Probably a great way to start his day!

I know this is only the beginning of my great relationship with improv and I can’t wait for opportunities to play more and learn deeper.

Have you labelled play with a bad rap? How can you bring more play and improv into your life?