What’s the drill – June 5: To push or to yield?

Last night I enjoyed a get together with the wonderful community of Bay Area Improvisers that feels like home to me, and in conversation with one good friend I asked:

What is the one most important thing Improv has taught you?

Her answer was short and sweet: It taught her to push and to yield.

Pushing and yielding may also be defined as give and take, dominance and submission, saying yes or saying no…etc.

Improv taught her, and teaches many people what it means to push and yield, what your own tendency is, and how and when to play either role.

But I’ll give you a secret – knowing when to push or to yield isn’t really about you. It’s about the other person. If you put all your attention and focus on the other person in your meeting, presentation, conversation, or improv scene – well, then you’ll pick up on how much to push or to yield.

It’s important to know how to play each role, and to have the confidence and self-awareness to do either. But the other person (your partner) will give you the clues and signs you need along the communication highway.

TOOL: Create opportunities for connection

Here is an important tool to add to your toolbox that doesn’t require an internet connection, or proper knowledge of emoticons.

It’s connection.

How can you create or find more opportunities to increase cross-functional support, empathy, collaboration and trust across an organization?

It can start with increasing the frequency and quality of interactions that your staff has with each other every day. It means increasing the ability to connect with your peers, share ideas, break down barriers and step away from your computer screen.

Create more opportunities for your staff to interact and get to know each other.

In designing the layout of Pixar Animation Studios, Steve Jobs famously requested there only be one restroom location  in the building – so that employees would have more opportunities for the kind of spontaneous interaction that fuels creativity. Today we see many companies bringing in catered lunches or creating cafeterias and open spaces which can encourage a sense of community, connection and camaraderie.

Sometimes building connections is as simple as providing opportunities for employees to work  with those they wouldn’t normally interact with.

The DreamWorks Improv Performance troupe is made up of wonderful people who represent almost every department at the company. We have animators interacting with visual effects artists interacting with engineers.

When there is a problem to solve across departments, these employees are no longer strangers to each other – they are allies and generous collaborators. The trust developed on stage carries over into the work environment and helps to build a stronger organization.

The more opportunities you can create to bring different departments, viewpoints and strengths together, the more connections will be formed to enhance the innovative and collaborative tendencies of your organization.

Step one to humanizing an organization is to create more opportunities for human connection. It starts with stepping away from the computer. 

Discover simple exercises to boost your creativity

 “I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else.”…. Pablo Picasso 

“I begin with a can opener and then it becomes something else…” – anonymous creative person

To be creative, is to see something in a new way.

Everyone has the ability to be creative. In fact, creativity is a muscle that can be strengthened through practice.  As a trainer and facilitator, I work with groups to flex their creative muscles. This work serves to enhance their observation skills, pique their curiosity, broaden their vision and make new connections.

To strengthen your own creativity muscle, consider these ideas:

  • To be a child again:  Having a “child-like” view of the world gives us a beginners mind – a way of seeing familiar things as if for the very first time. This mindset leaves us more open to the world around us. The more you can be open and present to the world around you, the more fuel you’ll have for your creative fire.
  • Shake up your routine: take a different route to work, try a different coffee shop – see if you can make one or two small adjustments to your daily routine to help open you up to new surroundings and let your brain waves pulsate in a different environment.
  • Adopt a new perspective:  the beauty of working with others is that we learn new and different ways of thinking. Next time your team is stumped, pretend you are a famous historian, artist, political figure or even Oprah. Ask, what would this person do? Sometimes adopting the persona of a stranger helps us to feel more comfortable expressing our ideas and trying on the mind of another.
  • Think outside (what kind of) box:  we often hear, its important to think outside the box – but sometimes all it takes to be more creative is to describe the box differently.

To enhance creativity, its important to promote new ways of thinking about and viewing our everyday perception.

Find an everyday object in your home, and see if you can come up with 10 different uses for it in 10 minutes. You’ll be surprised at the new and different ways to view something that used to seem mundane.

What did you discover?

The struggle to develop empathy and interpersonal communication skills in a digital world – Harvard Business Review

Digital Natives Are Slow to Pick Up Nonverbal Cues – John K. Mullen – Harvard Business Review.

research suggests that excessive, long-term exposure to electronic environments is reconfiguring young people’s neural networks and possibly diminishing their ability to develop empathy, interpersonal relations, and nonverbal communication skills. One study indicates that because there’s only so much time in the day, face-to-face interaction time drops by nearly 30 minutes for every hour a person spends on a computer. With more time devoted to computers and less to in-person interactions, young people may be understimulating and underdeveloping the neural pathways necessary for honing social skills.”