A few years ago when I was working at a software consulting company and we were sent to improv comedy classes. If you had reservations about public speaking this was one way to get over it with comedy. To push the group, we even had a date to perform in central London. Teamwork is a necessity to achieve success with improv comedy because it is done as a group. The form of improv comedy that we did was the Harold. This is a long form of improv comedy that involve three teams who perform in 3 phases or beats. But does improv help you with your daily work in a professional environment?
Clover leaf pattern
The clover leaf pattern is a group game in the Harold of coming up with 3 topics and then as a group you generate different ideas about the topics. You go around the group and say different words in related to the topic. The group will go on different tangents and arcs about the topic. The goal is trying to tie it back to the original topic before moving onto the next topic.
This is useful in work when brainstorming ideas. It is very easy to get side tracked but having a focus and the ability to bring ideas back to the central point is useful.
To succeed in improv, the secret is that you don’t deny someone else’s reality. This was something hard to do at the start. Someone could say “look at the purple elephant next to me”, instead of “umm no” we were instructed to start with saying “yes and”. This was effective because using “yes and” we could incorporate someone else’s story into our own storyline. “Yes there is a purple elephant and I have a flying car”, the possibility for this story about an elephant just expanded.
How many times in a meeting do you get pushback or disagreements? Do you stop these comments head on? Using the “yes and” technique, you give yourself the ability to emphasise with their point of view. This could give you an opportunity to reframe your argument with this person in mind. You are now being collaborative rather than combative.
In the harold, you start of with 3 different stories in the first beat and hopefully by the third beat, all of these stories sync up. This works by the teams picking up cues and themes that happen in the first and second beats. In the third beat, all of the teams come together with their separate stories and join on the common themes. This happens only if you pay attention to the other teams acting.
Listening to others is a necessary skill to succeed professionally. How do you adapt your state based on others? Can you help them out with their story? Sometimes meetings can go off the rails when tangents happen but like the clover leaf pattern game, can you find the common themes to bring everyone back together?
This blog article was something that I thought about writing about 3 years ago when I first got introduced to improv. Since then I found that the techniques used in improv helped me deal with tricky situations in consultant when someone throws you a curve ball in their comments or questions. So if you are looking for a team building exercise that requires a bit of fun and creativity, improv comedy is a winner.