What does making up a comedy show possibly have in common with business?
Allow me to start by putting you in the shoes of an improviser. Imagine you are standing on stage in front of dozens of people. They are all there because they desire something from you… in this case, to be entertained. What they expect is something wonderful and they want it right away.
Now, if you look around the stage you’ll see there are no sets or props and by the way you don’t have a script. What you have are your teammates. You’re all in this together and the greatest part is you all know that everyone has each other’s backs! There is no better feeling in the world.
If you thought improv was standing at a mic and telling jokes, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, it’s a team of highly supportive and trusting people collaborating in the moment to create something extraordinary. This tight-knit team can get a one-word suggestion from the audience that will inspire them to create 30 to 60 minutes of hilarious scenes, sometimes even songs and dances too, creating something wonderful together without a script.
Now imagine, your business. What is it that your clients or customer all want and when do they want it? But, more importantly, how will you deliver it? For that, you need a great team. After all, it’s the people that make your company work. So, how equipped are yours to pull together and deliver extraordinary results under lots of pressure?
This is why more and more companies are bringing improvisers to their organizations to help develop their teams. In improv, we like to say that the only star is the ensemble… and we mean it. We put the team before ourselves because we know it’s the only way to create something extraordinary… something that none of us could have created on our own.
It all starts with time spent preparing to improvise. That’s right, we spend a lot of time preparing ourselves to thrive under pressure and without a script. Preparation means rehearsals in which we play lots of really fun games that build support and trust within the group.
One of my favorite beginner games is Ninja Stars, where we simply pretend to throw and catch a bunch of imaginary ninja stars with the goal that “no one dies.” In order to succeed, everyone needs to be fully present and playing “all in.” Furthermore, our level of communication is heightened since our ninja stars are imaginary. We are forced to pay very close attention to eye contact, body language, and verbal signals. Throwers also have to be sure that catchers are fully prepared before they can release the weapon.
It’s a super fun game that anyone can play. The key is to facilitate the game in a way that builds to more challenging levels and debrief along the way and discuss how they apply to our teams at work.
I’ve taught this game in this way to many teams and the number one takeaway is that trust is the foundation of all great teams. Improv is a great way to build trust because it is a fun and effective way to teach everyone how to have each other’s backs when communicating under difficult circumstances.
That’s just one example of how improv can be a fantastic teaching tool for organizations that want a high-energy, high-impact way to quickly bring a group of people together and transform them into a high-performing team.
Now, whether you want that team to deliver the next killer app or a killer comedy show is up to you.