Bill Murray, Amy Poehler, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Aziz Ansari. Can you name the common denominator for this group of funnies?
Well, yes, they’re all famous actors. But they also all got their starts in improv comedy, that wondrous art of performing spontaneously and without a script. Short for “improvisational comedy,” the popular form can be found in college theaters and city comedy clubs around the world — and is now making its way into the boardroom.
That’s right: business leaders left and right are realizing the wide-ranging benefits of this collaborative, think-on-your-feet pastime. IVY Thought Leader Bob Kuhlan wrote a book on the subject, and told us in person how to use improv take our business skills to the next level.
IVY is holding an Improv Workshop in Miami with Second City to introduce people to improv’s interpersonal benefits and leadership lessons.
In the meantime, for those who are wary to take the leap, here are seven reasons why you should consider an improv class. It’ll leave you equipped to approach your professional and personal challenges with fresh eyes and newfound courage.
1. Face Your Fears
Heart pounding, muscles tensing, stomach in knots — we all know the feeling of fear and anxiety when it crops up ahead of a big interview or important presentation. No one likes it, yet it’s all too familiar.
Fortunately, improv prepares you for such moments. By offering a low-stakes environment in which to freely express yourself, improv lays the groundwork for building the confidence and poise you need for your next nerve-wracking, can-I-have-a-raise conversation with your boss.
2. Think on Your Feet
Improv moves quickly, necessitating a “more doing, less thinking” kind of approach to life. This format releases your inhibitions and teaches you to trust yourself. Ultimately, this translates into swifter decision making in the workplace and beyond — and encourages you to trust your gut and speak up.
One IVY Member from Los Angeles, Amanda Deutchman, reflected on her experience at an improv workshop The Second City: “Not only was it fun, it was great for learning how to trust yourself. The key to creating humor lied in positivity, truly listening, and trusting your brain to make the right thing come out of your mouth. And it worked! A valuable lesson about the importance of listening and trusting in yourself.”
3. Yes, And…
It’s the central tenet of improv: “yes, and….” This guiding principle dictates that you should always accept what your improv partner has stated (“yes”) and then expand on that line of thinking (“and”) to continue the comedic process.
This is a powerful idea. The workplace is often penetrated by analytical naysaying, a tendency that can shut down creative collaboration at the source. What “yes, and” teaches us to see, however, is the unforeseen ideas and solutions that crop up when we remain open and accepting.
Looking to make your brainstorming sessions truly effective? Consider taking the “yes, and” adaptive approach to problem solving.
4. Patience Is a Virtue
Here’s a scenario for you: “Improv hiring a private detective.”
Right off the bat, you may not know how to jump into this scenario with your improv partners. What is the private detective investigating? What’s his name? How can I play a role in this scene?
Yet, by taking a step back, paying attention, and allowing your partners to work out the primary elements of the scene, your role will become apparent. Active listening, mindfulness, being present — these are all skills that improv will force you to inhabit, and will serve you in the workplace.
5. Communication Is Key
Along with cultivating patience, improv will teach you how to give and take in a conversation. Because you’re tasked with determining the why of a scenario (e.g., why you’re hiring a private detective), you must exhibit robust communication skills. This will pave the path to effective management, better leadership, and successful conflict resolution.
LA IVY Member Amanda Deutchman was also struck by this aspect of the workshop: “The lesson to trust yourself by ‘playing’ in a low-stakes environment stuck with me. I realized that I don’t always need to say something perfectly – just putting out an idea can lead someone else’s brain to something else and eventually land on something really great. I’ve always been big on teamwork and brainstorming leading to the best ideas, but now I am a little more free with my contributions which can lead to better creativity all around.”
6. Make a Connection
Let’s be honest: it’s easy to get stuck in a rut with your coworkers. You see these people everyday, so you might not feel so inclined to reach out and start a fresh conversation with someone whose presence you’ve become accustomed to.
That all changes on the improv stage. When you’re required to think on your feet and work out a scenario with another person, you’re bound to spark a connection and break through that interpersonal barrier. This kind of moment can be a catalyst for better business practices on an individual and organizational level.
7. Have a Laugh
Last, but definitely not least, improv is a riot. You may not expect the wild paths you’ll head to when given scenarios like “two children in the sandbox fight over a toy” or “a magician turns a person into a cow by accident” — but you’re sure to have a good time doing it.
So why not step out of your comfort zone? Besides the novelty and mental exercise of improv (vs. yet another run-of-the-mill evening), you’ll find that improv and business actually have a lot in common — and the skills you develop on the stage can help make or break a career.
If you’re interested in putting your improv skills to the test, IVY is hosting an Improv Workshop with The Second City at Villain Theater in Miami. Tickets are available online — we hope to see you there!
IVY is the world’s first Social University. Our mission is to educate and inspire future leaders. To learn more and attend live events near you, please visit IVY.com.