How Improv Themes Translate Back at the Office

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improv, team building, DC Comedy Club, The Shakedown

In Part I of this two-part Shakedown, Liz Demery, corporate events designer and facilitator at The DC Improv Comedy Club, highlighted three valuable lessons attendees can learn from improv.

Here, she continues the discussion by highlighting specific improv themes that groups can incorporate into their team building experience and how those themes can translate back at the office.

How exactly does your company incorporate themes into improv team building exercises?

Teamwork: Improv is a team sport. The exercises at team building events always involve more than one person and sometimes the entire group. The success of an exercise often relies on everyone’s ability to listen and respond to each other, enhance each other’s ideas and jump in to help the group when there is a clear need.

Risk taking: We teach individuals to make and celebrate bold choices, even if they don’t succeed. The environment we create is built on psychological safety, so people feel comfortable taking risks without fear of judgment. We purposefully select activities to ease participants into improv, and we remind groups that everyone is stepping outside their comfort zones and is there to support each other. The goal is to have fun and learn, not to be perfect.

Positive thinking: Because we use a series of short, playful games, participants are able to try new things in a fun way where there are no detrimental consequences if they make a mistake. By debriefing after exercises, we celebrate those mistakes and share the learning that arose from them. We then move quickly into new games that enable us to put what we’ve learned into practice, rather than dwell on mistakes. We celebrate our favorite moments at the end, so you’ll walk away focusing on the positive, peak experiences that arose from the group’s successful risk taking and bold choices.

What ways can groups take the skills they learn from improv back to the office?

The skills learned in improv are skills essential to any office: communication, collaboration and creativity. Through improv, you will learn to be more present and a better listener to those you interact with. You will enhance your ability to see and build on the strengths of your team. You will navigate change more adeptly. And you will learn how to be a more innovative partner by building on, rather than tearing down, others’ ideas.

As the working world is faster-paced, more technologically driven and more interconnected than ever before, these are skills that can be applied to any industry and role, whether you work with clients, colleagues, vendors or constituents. That’s not to mention that you are sure to have fun, see teammates in a new light and return to work recharged with some great memories of that time the boss pretended to be an apple tree.

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