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In our applied improv workshops, 1 + 1 =3

Are you searching for employees who are bold and innovative, and aren’t afraid to look for creative solutions? Stop your search. You’ve already got them.

Something a little magical happens in an Improv Effects workshop. We add two huge components together, but the result is greater than the sum of its parts.

At their most basic level, most of our workshops focus on two major philosophies: stepping out of your comfort zone and unconditional support. These are coached through an improv prism as: making big, strong choices and saying, “Yes, and . . .”.

We know when we start a workshop that people will be stepping out of their comfort zones in varying degrees. Most people have never participated in improv-related activities before and some may not be familiar with it at all. When a workshop first starts, we see introverts stand uncomfortable with their arms crossed. The unease of the extroverts is just as obvious; it just manifests itself differently - usually in the form of jokey responses or even overconfidence.

While our warm-ups involve a lot of laughter and often seem silly, we have put a tremenous amount of thought into the progress of these warm-ups, their purposes and how they fit into the development of the group. We aim to get people as efficiently, effectively and safely into a mindset where they know it's okay to step out of their comfort zone. We draw out the introverts, so they know it's okay to speak up. We settle down the extroverts, so they know they don't have to always say the response that gets the quick laugh.

By the time we get to the meat of our first round of actual exercises, we find that people are in a positive state, ready to interact using genuine responses. In that state, participants really open up. People who swore they were no good at thinking on their feet are suddenly coming up with stories on the spot. They're speaking up with ideas in collaboration exercises with ideas that you can see they're very excited about.

The second big philosophy is that of support. In improv, it's the "Yes, and . . ." mentality. After warm-ups, we start with simple exercises that get people responding to everything they hear with, "Yes, and . . .", and then contributing to the idea they are responding to.

Every idea is supported. Every suggestion is a great idea. Participants look for only the things they like in others stories.

By the second half of the workshop, we've got an upward spiral: people are contributing with enthusiasm and creativity and everyone's cheering them on, encouraging even more input. It's a result that can not be attained if we just focus on the support or just focus on stepping out of comfort zones.

Now, we know this is a workshop. We know it's a lab. In your day-to-day operations, there are times when you have to say, "no." There are times when the project has difficult constraints. And we know it can be tough to be supportive when you see Gary walking into to the office for the 50th time to complain about how the vending machine doesn't have gluten-free potato chips.

It's not the rule. It's the mentality. It's not the letter of the law. It's the spirit of the law. There will be exceptions, but if you create an environment in your organization that encourages risk-taking, new ideas, big choices and innovative suggestions, and couple that with an environment that is completely supportive of those that take those actions, you will be amazed at the energy and innovation that comes from your team.

Create that upward spiral in your organization and see the difference.

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