Engaging your team and keeping them engaged, especially while working remotely, is challenging. Collaborating from afar can feel disconnected when we don’t have that in-person energy. The compelling nature of improvisation launches individuals and teams to a higher level of connection, unlocking spontaneity, creativity, and flexibility that may get lost in the everyday operations of business.
As a leader, manager, or entrepreneur it is crucial to communicate, set expectations, and build relationships with your remote team members. Using improv taps into those skills through dynamic exercises in a way traditional training does not.
A Brief History of Improv
Born in American theatre in the 1930s, improvisational comedy entertains across the globe. What you may know from television’s Whose Line Is It Anyway or the legendary Second City theatre has been transformed into Applied Improvisation, which is used across business, education, and social organizations for the purpose of strengthening communication, the power of yes, navigating difficult conversations, and the list goes on and on. Through the tenets of “yes, and” and empathic listening, improvisation will uplevel your team dynamics through facilitated exercises followed by focused debriefing based on your specific business experience.
It’s like a living, breathing PowerPoint presentation – all the learning plus way more laughter.
Applied Improvisation is a proactive, experiential learning tool for work and for life. Adapted from theatre, applied improvisation takes communication exercises and brings them into the professional environment as an alternative to traditional training. Rather than simply reading, taking notes, or watching a slide presentation, improv gets people into their bodies and imaginations with interactive exercises designed to practice the tenets of saying yes, listening, reacting, creating, and adapting.
Say, “Yes, and…”
The two most important words in improv are “yes, and.” The “yes” affirms and the “and” adds the next piece of information. How often in your business and personal life do you hear an automatic yes? The guess is, not often. That, of course, is normal and entirely understandable, as we cannot say yes to everything.
However, the practice of “yes” in improv is not blind agreement.
It is the active acknowledgement of another person’s point of view. If you are working on a project with one or more people, the presumption is that you are all moving toward the same objective. Saying yes to a colleague’s idea, then, is saying yes to the project, whether you fully agree with the idea or not. That’s where the “and” comes into play. Yes, you affirm their idea, and you also have something to add. The goal is not to reject ideas out of hand but to use every notion as a starting point for collaboration.
In Applied Improvisation, we use exercises and games to experience the feeling of yes in a low-stakes environment, so the participants may take that feeling into a real-world circumstance. The experiential nature of an improv workshop helps participants to live the lesson, not just read about, hear about it, or take notes on it.
The interaction of facilitated improvisation activates muscle memory, rather than asking the group to picture or theorize the objectives.
It is an entirely different way to approach professional development, as it is not limited to itself, but dynamically applicable to any other development topic your team has learned.
The skill of listening underlies every aspect of professional development, team building, and collaboration. Listening is paramount in improvisation by its very nature – because improv is unplanned, moment-to-moment discovery, if we do not listen carefully to our partners, we simply have no idea what to do next.
By practicing that level of crucial concentration, honing into our ensemble’s every word and connotation, we take that with us into sales pitches, negotiations, job reviews, and the list goes on.
Running a remote team, you know that listening is challenging especially set against the backdrop of tech issues, children at home, and a host of other distractions. Through improv techniques, you can learn new tactics of listening, reacting, and proactively communicating, even with the world humming in your ears. We have an exercise for that!
As previously mentioned, though improv began as a tool for communication, it is known the world over for comedic entertainment. The vulnerability and honesty required to improvise results in a lot of laughter.
Humor is biologically proven to connect us emotionally to content, meaning that when we laugh, we learn, and it feels more like fun than work.
That burst of humanity connects us to the people we are working with, an invaluable effect of improvising with a team. Plus, how often is training fun?
Engaging your remote team can feel like a job in and of itself. Building a foundation of expectations, structure, and trust can help this aspect of leadership feel more manageable. Vegas Improv Power is here to “yes, and” you on your journey with your ensemble. We are skilled and experienced in facilitating remote teams and individuals, and we can’t wait to meet you!