What’s the drill: May 3 – Back to the basics

Ah, just when you think you’ve become an Improvisation Jedi  a challenge emerges to test your will, your word, and the ability to make the conscious unconscious.

Enter, the group project.

Time and time again I’m reminded just how important the skills of an Improviser are, how much practice it takes to apply these behaviors on and off-stage and the reward for doing so.

Sometimes, we need a re-set or a re-boot to wake us up and remind us that these behaviors sometimes hide off-stage when things like stress, the need for control, deadlines, and “being right” want the spotlight for the quick ego boost they may provide.

Ah, silly person. No. These aren’t the rewards that count. It’s the reward that comes from being a team player that we desire most.

Be the kind of Improviser/group project member people want on their team… because you make them better.

So, how do we do that?

1. Notice More it is my obligation to notice, accept, and use every offer/idea that comes my way. We only notice the offers if we are listening and paying attention

2. Start with agreement — Because I believe everything my partner says is fascinating and even, genius — it is my obligation to notice their offer and start with a place of “yes”. To do this well, I need to withhold judgement and blocking in favor of more acceptance.

3. Build instead of tear down – “yes, and” the heck out of their idea.  Two heads are better than one. By building on their initial idea instead of simply sticking to my own I help make my partner look good…great, even!

What truly happens when we enact these guidelines and put them into practice every day is that we allow ourselves and our team-mates to be changed. It’s what happens when we notice, accept, and build more often. We’re in our own head less, and experiencing more.

And if we fail at this today, there is always tomorrow.

TOOL: Choosing how to play the “scene”

When we think about a basic framework for how and why to apply the tenants of Improvisation to life off of the Improv stage, we can start by discussing the word “performance”.

Whether or not we are used to thinking of it this way…the truth is, we are all performing every moment of our lives.

If this seems daunting or strangely unsettling, you’re not alone.

Luckily, we can use the tools of Improvisation to create more conscious performance choices, (tailored for each stage or scene) to achieve more authentic, successful and meaningful interactions.

Learning and acquiring these skills allow each of us to build a toolkit of performance choices – that we can use to become more adaptable, flexible and aware in the moment.

Here are some basic tips that can help you when thinking about the performance choices we make all the time:

  1. Be present – practicing mindfulness, and the ability to read a room and pick up on non-verbal cues allows us to tailor our performances for the appropriate stage
  2. Remember the power of “status” – be aware that the choices we make in our behavior, our tone, or words, and our non-verbal communication can elicit powerful shifts in status dynamics between people.
  3. Make your performance partner look good – remember that we are often not alone on the stage. Being able to effectively communicate and collaborate with others has an obviously large effect on the overall performance of the team. Use active listening, a “yes,and” mindset and a give-and-take approach to allow space for others to achieve their performance goals.
  4. Know your objective – in each scene, we want to know what our characters objective is. Knowing our objective, “our want”, allows us to adjust and adapt our choices on stage depending on how close we are to achieving that goal.

If this blog post was beneficial to you, who can you share it with to continue the conversation?

Two words that kill innovation and creativity

Every moment and in every interaction we are capable of choosing our “performances” and how we act, behave, and respond in a given situation.

Often our responses are habitual, instinctive, and we aren’t even aware of the mindset that’s ingrained in us or our companies. 

It’s possible these two little words are killing the innovation and creativity of your team:

“Yes, But”. 

Reflect on how you and your company respond to new or untested ideas. Do you “but” ideas to death? It might look like this:

“Yes, but it won’t work”

“Yes, but we don’t have the time”

“Yes, but we tried something similar before and it didn’t work”

In doing so, are you rejecting innovation and creativity?

I’m not advocating a company full of just “yes” men. Instead, we can choose a performance that involves less judgement, more open-mindedness, acceptance of others ideas, and a willingness to build on ideas instead of rejecting them.

Think about all of the performance choices you have every day. How can your performance increase and not block the flow of ideas, open communication and an open mind.

“But….” , just give it a try!