Improv is the Gym

Improv principles entered the workplace somewhere around the mid-90′s. Back then, the idea of applying those mindsets and exercises was pretty wacky. Now, there are thousands of practitioners around the world working in organizations of all sorts, sought out to help develop creativity, flexibility, performance and collaboration, the cornerstones of applied improv.The ideas and approaches that improviser have claimed, have become integrated into general consulting and business practices in much more general ways.

We no longer have to spend much time pitching the value of developing those skills. Mainstream and  traditional publications such as the NY Times, the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review regularly run pieces on the value of  listening better, taking creative risks, celebrating failure, collaborating across differences, “yes, and-ing.” Sometimes these articles reference applied improv. Often, not.

So, what, if any, is the special value that improvisers bring to the table? I think it’s this: Improv is the Gym. Many people TALK about the importance of listening well, of not censoring ourselves in brainstorming, of accepting and building with others’ ideas and opinions. Improvisers have developed  - over the last half-century or so – exercises to build “muscles” in those areas. Perhaps the principles are the same in every discipline, but improvisers, because their work has no other goal than to create collaboratively on the spot, have developed a rich set of tools and skill-building activities.

Wanna build those strengths? Reading books won’t do it. At least not JUST reading books. Go find an improv class. Or find a group to work out with. Get up off your butt and play!

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