Everyone pretending to be using their devices in a fun improv activity at Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab

Improv of the Month for Business Visionaries!

Applied improv is different from improv comedy. Applied Improv is a teaching or training method that can help business organizations and community groups in many ways. You may have participated in an improv workshop for team-building or leadership development. Or maybe you’ve been treated to a workshop at your organization just for stress relief.

There is a wide variety of applications for improv! I think of using it on two levels. One simple approach is to have a little fun together! This is the primary purpose behind Improv of the Month idea.

What is Improv of the Month?

Improv of the month is an idea developed for visionary business or community leaders who strive for a healthy workforce. It is pretty simple in that champions of the idea should plan on teaching one simple activity each month and like a positive wave, helping it to spread through the organization.

Depending on the size of your organization, leaders can decide on the best process of sharing the activity so that directly or indirectly the entire staff is taught. In a business with multiple shifts and departments a visionary CEO could teach the activity to her/his management team and they in turn teach it to their staff. In a smaller organization, such as a primary care physician practice, a business manager or clinical leader could take on the task of teaching the entire staff. (A relatively new term for using improv for nurses or in other healthcare settings is called Medical Improv!)

The idea is to integrate a little fun into other meetings such as orientation processes, strategic planning meetings, and/or clinical education sessions. In most cases the whole experience will take only 10 minutes. People will have fun, be engaged, and connect around a somewhat silly shared experience. People on different shifts and in different departments will be engaged and have something new in common.

Starting in January, 2019, I’ll share a simple improv activity that you can do with your management team and/or staff. All you have to do to make sure you get each post subscribe to this blog! No charge. No strings attached.

Does the idea seem frivolous?

Spending time this way may sound frivolous and feel awkward at first, but consider these benefits before dismissing the idea.

PILL Improv students playing an activity called "The Gift".
  1. If your teams are having fun together this will likely improve morale and retention.
  2. Positive shared experiences can contribute to a culture of ownership, forgiveness, and learning.
  3. Humor can help people cope with aggression as per this Australian National University research!
  4. And for teams like doctors and nurses who are working under high-stakes, high stress conditions, having a little fun together will help people build trust and develop positive relationships.

Expect some resistance, but don’t let it stop you!

Improv can seem like a foreign language or new outfit that doesn’t quite fit. Yet, when facilitated with emotional safety in mind, most people find that it is fun and gets easier with practice. Remarkably, through the interactive play of improv many adults rediscover a natural ability for playfulness with others. (At PILL (Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab) we call this divine play!) And since many work environments involve some degree of interpersonal interactions, the notion of practicing in a fun way can help!

And try not to burden yourself with being perfect at these activities. People, for the most part, will appreciate you modeling outside your comfort zone and making room for a little stress relief amongst the staff. In fact, another benefit of playing improv activities is to celebrate the human qualities of imperfection. A stepping to forging relationships without blame, judgements, or fears of difference! Doesn’t that sound wonderful?

What is the other level of teaching improv?

The second approach is to use the activities for more intentional and complex behavior change. As you know, individual and organizational behaviors are often interfering with staff’s ability to collaborate, innovate, and provide excellent customer service. Problems with interpersonal dynamics can also contribute to occupational injuries and illnesses. I use improv as an organizational development strategy by working with leaders in designing workshops to build ‘soft’ skills or meet goals. Another very exciting application is the Be Crazy workshops where mindfulness teacher , Liz Korabek-Emerson and I have teamed up to combine mindfulness and improv!

If you’d like to know more about using improv for your business or community for fun or deeper work, please reach out beth@bethboynton.com.

Is that it?

No! One more thing! If you try out an Improv of the Month activity and want to share your story, take some pics and write to us. We’ll make a blog post out of it and spread the good news even further :).

Happy New Years from PILL!