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Do Improv. If You Can’t, Encourage Your Manager to Organize One for the Company

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  • Tip Bones

During the past summer, I was lucky to work remotely in San Francisco for six months. As most digital nomads, my day-to-day interaction was mostly with my computer, peers whom I hang on a conference call twice a week, and project management tools that I constantly update. Time management and the workload was perfect, except for one thing: the human interaction had decreased over time.

I became better at communicating with my computer and all the tools in it while missing out on face-to-face interaction, actual conversation, and real-world collaboration. With a great excuse ready, I’ve signed up for an eight weeks improv class in Redwood City to bring out the real actress in me.

Having amateur performing background in school musicals, parodies, and dance shows; being on the “stage” as a grown-up was exciting, and in this article, I will talk about why you or your company should try improv too!

Before getting into the details of “why”, I’d like to highlight two things: to join improvisation classes, you don’t have to be a funny person nor do you need any prior experience. The only thing required is to get out of your comfort zone and grow.

Companies nowadays have all sorts of great perks; free lunch, yoga days, meditation hours, which are great ways to motivate employees. But after observing the positive impacts of taking an improv class, I strongly suggest that all sizes of companies should encourage their employees to join improvisation classes.

There are many important areas including public speaking, sales, storytelling, problem-solving, organizational communication, creativity and listening that can be improved by taking an improv class.

As your first class starts with getting on the stage and introducing yourself to the faces you’ve never seen before and telling them about your story, you are on your way to challenge some public speaking skills. If your job requires giving lots of presentations, it’s great for you, thus for your company.

After you get to hear everyone’s story, the instructor goes over a few important improv rules, which I’d highly stress the “Yes, and?” rule here. Regardless of what line your acting partner improvises in a scene, such as “Do you see those horses ice-skating with silver skates?”, the rule is always to say “Yes, and?”. For example, saying “Yes, I do. How smoothly they’re skating. I bet they just sharpened the blades?” enables your partner to come up with “Speaking of blades…” which then the conversation always goes one step further.

As we all know that people often choose “No, but!” in an opinion giving setting. With “Yes, and?” rule, you learn how to enrich the context and keep adding on, which is where the growth happens. Imagine a marketing team, where everyone shares ideas with “Yes, and?” in mind? How incredible would that be?

Also, according to Stanford Design Thinking Process, “Yes, and?” is part of the “Ideate” stage in the design thinking process. It helps brainstorming and creative solutions.

With all the rules resonate, improvisers get comfortable with each other week by week and new games are being introduced: interactive word games, numeric and visual memory games. These games help with memory and problem-solving skills, which are golden in any professional field.

For the customer-facing jobs that seek out well-versed employees and effective verbal communication; improv teaches extremely valuable skills. When given a scene to improvise, whether it be just speaking a gibberish language or pretending there is an ocean you need to swim in or getting on the “imaginary bus” with your improv partners; you learn how to answer unexpected questions, how to quickly express yourself and address issues needs to be solved. The beauty of it is that you get better and better each week. What doesn’t practice make perfect?

Regardless of the industry and size of the company, I think professionals can benefit a lot from taking improvisation classes to gain valuable and applicable skills that can help them grow both personally and professionally. What are you waiting for? Find the nearest class and improv on!