Business Lessons from Improv

By: Eris Weaver | Date: January 19, 2012 | Categories: Art, Play, and Creativity
I was really tickled to come across this list of Improv Tricks That Will Make You a Better Business Person.  One of my declarations – “Don’t work at it, play with it!” – comes from the life lessons I’ve learned from years of studying, practicing, performing,and teaching improv.
Stop for a moment and think of a problem or issue that you are currently facing. What images come to mind when you think about working on it? What does that make your body feel like? for me, there is a heaviness and seriousness invoked by that phrase. I feel tension and anxiety, maybe even dread. Now take that same issue and imagine what it would be like to play with it instead. What images and feelings does THAT evoke? I feel a lightness, permission to fiddle with it and make mistakes, curiosity. I feel freedom and anticipation.
Too many of us have forgotten what that state feels like. We have turned things that used to be play – sports, games, singing, drawing,etc. – into work. We sign up for classes and worry about whether we are “good enough” at it. We inflict this on our children, putting them into competitive sports younger and younger instead of letting them just play.
Improvisation is fun, and that is a good enough reason to do it! But it  has also helped me:
  • Create connection and community
  • Be better able to think on my feet
  • Become more confident
  • Become a better listener
  • Become better at “going with the flow”
When I design and facilitate meetings I frequently include exercises or activities that are playful and get people to laugh. I also leave some space in my agendas and know that at some point we may need to deviate from the script and improvise.
The forms I’ve played with have been Contact Improvisation and InterPlay, but I think any “flavor” of improv that appeals to you works. I occasionally teach an improv class specifically designed to help folks get more comfortable with public speaking and sharing their message in a more impromptu way.
After all, we don’t get a dress rehearsal for live – it’s all improv, anyway!