Applied Improvisation

credit: keepcalm-o-maticImprovisation is something that we all do most of the time (every time you speak you are stringing new combinations of words together, for instance).  But ask someone to “do” improv and most will run a mile.  This is probably because we tend to associate it with a bunch of comedians on the telly who are very good at making us laugh with jokes they make up on the spot.

Applied Improvisation (AI), however, is different from impro.  It’s not scary, it’s not about being funny, it’s not a performance… The “applied” bit is all about how it is used and adapted for use off the stage to strengthen relationships, build understanding, enhance collaboration,  inspire creativity, to help people “be in the present” more of the time, and to be more spontaneous, to project themselves more confidently. 

What is the value of improvisation in today’s businesses?

Dr. Farnaz Tabaee’s doctoral thesis on the Effects of Improvisation Techniques in Leadership Development tested what practical benefit a course of improvisation gave to senior leaders.  Interestingly this is a rare focus for academic leadership research – but one that warrants further investigation – and development – considering that improvised decisions are made by senior managers 75-90% of the time.   Moreover, high stress levels combined with the need to constantly improvise adhoc can affect the leader’s ability to think clearly – leading to ineffective decision-making.

Immediate benefits

  • 90% of participants reported gaining listening skills or the ability to express thoughts without judgment or both.
  • Participants felt more confident in expressing themselves without fear of being wrong or judged.
  • 81% reported being better able to accept their own and their staff’s mistakes and learn from them. This theme also trickled down positively to other areas of the leaders’ effectiveness, leading to greater productivity and less stress.
  • 72% gained an understanding of collaborative creativity.
  • lowered levels of stress
  • increased mindfulness
  • affirmative competence (individuals feeling confident enough to take action)
  • desire to share leadership;
  • enhanced ability to make optimal spontaneous decisions.
 Sustained benefits: 
  • participants continued to enjoy higher levels of productivity and performance; one participant suggested that improvisation could enhance retention of Generation Y employees.
  • better family relationships.
  • Increased awareness of decision making abilities.

 But don’t –Taebee reminds us– forget humour and fun!

See here for more details.

Click here for a download about PeopleZone’s use of Applied Improvisation in transformational change programmes.

Contact us to discuss how applied improvisation can help address your work or personal challenges.  Click here for a recent blog about the exploration of “status” in Applied Improvisation.