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Improv Together, Improve Together

Improvised acting is no longer just for comedians. Truth is, more and more businesses are hiring improvisation instructors to educate employees on the benefits of, “fully living in the moment.” Limited public speaking skills, inhibited creativity, and scarcity of workplace comradery can all be remedied by taking individuals from a corporate mindset and planting them in the world of imagination, even if just for an hour session.

The premise of improvised acting is that performers retrieve a suggestion, or suggestions, from an audience to create a piece. That’s it. No preparation, no script, no idea what will occur in the upcoming 12 – 20 minutes. There’s no way; how could this ever work? The answer: by listening and being uninhibited. Listening to each member of the group, to every word they say, focuses and melds the individuals into a cohesive group with the same end-goal. Being uninhibited allows all members of the performance to freely express ideas, opinions, and emotions, all of which will be heard, acknowledged, and explored. This leads to the overarching rule of improv: “yes, and.”

The, “yes,” portion means scene partners will accept whatever a fellow performer says or does, where the, “and,” portion implies partners will also contribute to the idea they just agreed to. This wraps back around to the importance of listening and letting go of inhibitions. By deeply listening to one another and accepting the circumstances given, the group can come together to generate a wealth of unique ideas without the fear of rejection or being incorrect.

These basic principles are taught by improvisational instructors within companies via exercises and games in order to help employees and employers alike cultivate their business skills. Rick Andrews, an instructor at New York’s Magnet Theatre, was featured in a Forbes article discussing the benefits of teaching improv in a business setting. Increased listening in client meetings, improved presentation skills, decreased workplace negativity, and increased collaboration. Strategy+Business further expanded on improv benefits to CEOs and managers, expressing the importance of being a, “Yes, and, leader” versus that of “Yes, but, leadership.”

Improv schools such as the Annoyance and Second City offer classes specifically for business to learn the value of improv by coming to the office and running valuable training workshops. Even esteemed business schools such as Duke and UCLA teach improv classes as part of their MBA programs due to the valuable improvisational lessons students will learn and carry forward into their careers.

Having a safe space where imagination and acceptance are at the forefront can not only help alleviate the stresses and tensions that manifest in business, but actually improve skills required for employees and employers to reach a common goal: Success.