Applying Improv has sharpened my awareness of what’s going on around me.
As a facilitator, practicing presence is critical to help serve the group. As a dad, being fully present with my children brings them joy and confidence. As a project leader, improv reminds me to ‘notice’ what’s happening in real time … let go of control of outcomes & learn from (and celebrate) mistakes.
Applying Improv principles to our work challenge ‘business as usual’ and, in my experience, makes managers & leaders very nervous. I often hear them say, “it’s all good in theory BUT in practice it’ll never work for us”.
Here’s some quotes and comments (by me) from ‘Can Executives Learn to Ignore the Script?’
“All too often, there are corporate cultures that say: ‘Be creative, but don’t make any mistakes.’ Improv opens doors to doing things a different way.”
In facilitating with staff groups at 2 Local Councils this year I noticed that the younger staff (those at the edges or at the coal-face) felt constrained by corporate targets and goals. They wanted to be bold and creative (and have more fun) in their work with community … however … their ‘enthusiasm-blanket’ for trying new stuff and taking risks was ripped from under them by managers and directors.
“Ms. Madson and other improv consultants, including a team out of Portland, Ore., called On Your Feet, are hoping to create what Ms. Madson calls “a culture of ‘yes.’”
“The improv idea of saying yes from the start,” she adds, “allows business folks to entertain things that would ordinarily get axed out.”
Saying ‘Yes!And’ is at the core of my blog. A culture of saying ‘Yes’ and building on offers made by others (rather than blocking new ideas with ‘Yes but’) leads to creativity and innovation. ‘Yes And’ creates a culture of ‘Yes we can’ and and opens up new possibilities.
Ben Zander describes 2 places in his book the Art of Possibility. A place that is “downward spiraling” (where the culture is ‘Yes But’) and a “place of possibility” (where the culture is ‘Yes And’).
“If anything,” he says, “we know rather less about what is coming next, and how it will affect us, than our ancestors did.”
Back in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s life was far more predictable. At school age we knew with some certainty what jobs would be available to us depending on how far we went with our education. For our children now, they are faced with a future where 70% of the jobs in 2020 do not even exist yet! (Adapted from Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk). Think about that in terms of the business world in tackling climate change!
“Even the best-planned businesses can fail, Ms. Madson notes. Improvisers avoid spinning their wheels because they see quickly what isn’t working or, simultaneously, what might be successful that didn’t occur to them at first. Improvisers, by definition, take risks and make mistakes, lots of them, but that’s what leads them in fresh directions.”
“Mike Kwatinetz, a venture capitalist who is co-founder and general partner at Azure Capital Partners in Palo Alto, Calif., says he believes that improvisational thinking gets new companies rolling in the right direction. “For these young companies, and hopefully forever, you want to have changes all the time,” Mr. Kwatinetz said. “You want to be reacting to what you’re seeing and what you’re doing right and where it’s not working and react to that to try something different.”
These 2 quotes are all about ‘noticing’ what is actually going on in your project, business or whatever. It’s about being ‘present’. The art of presence is all about the here and now. The future will take care of itself (and is random and unpredictable anyway). The past has happened and there ain’t nothing we can do about it (except learn from it).