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Improv Your Way Through the Workplace

Posted by Melyssa Muro
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Improv Your Way Through the Workplace

Professional improv actor Dan O’Connor recently sat with Business Insider to share how incorporating the golden rules of improv acting into your everyday life can prove fruitful both at work and home.

 

1. The classic “Yes, and…”

You’ll get more out of any given interaction by ‘yes-anding,’ O’Connor purports. The tool is not only used to advance the narrative—conversation or meeting, in our case—it teaches you to be mindful of others’ suggestions and learn to roll with what you’re dealt. Bear in mind that the word “no” is not forbidden; but, any attempts to halt the ongoing process should be avoided. After all, the image of a colleague shutting down an idea is all too familiar. With an abundant ‘yes and’ spirit comes a more supportive environment in which conversations and stories are furthered.

 

2. Praise and believe in your partner

A conversation or presentation where you’re actively listening and open to learn goes a long way. When you focus on what your partner is bringing to the table, "Neurosis and self-doubt that come from internalizing your own fear go away,” according to O’Connor. In this way, you live in the moment and, if both parties are participating, you are creating a more comfortable and natural exchange rather than one where you’re stuck in your head.

 

3. Failures are your friend

"Some of the funniest stuff in improv is when people make mistakes and then use those mistakes to change the story," O’Connor says. Translated into the workplace, it’s more enjoyable when you embrace your flaws and keep your head up. We’ve all had that time where we fumbled on our words or spilled coffee in the middle of that meeting, or at the very least witnessed another commit an office blunder. When you (or the unnamed culprit) laugh it off and keep going, everyone can breathe easier—or even with a chortle.

 

If you are interested in adding some of these approaches into your work environment, visit the pARTnership movement and use the find a partner tool to invite the arts into your office.

 

Photo: The Second City

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Aetna’s Floyd Green: How Theater Honed His Business Acumen

Posted by Kellyn Lopes
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Americans for the Arts Board Member Floyd W. Green III is best known as the Corporate Vice President and Head of Community Relations and Urban Marketing at Aetna. He has, however, spent time out of the corporate office and on the stage. From German cabarets and Atlantic City nightclubs, to Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Green immerses himself in the many facets of theater.

 

A recent article by Forefront Magazine interviews Green about how he’s used lessons from the theater world to enhance his skills as a business leader and manager. He says, “It’s like a ‘Night at the Improv.’ You’re in the moment when you’re in a sales call or meeting. It’s all in real time, and it’s just like doing improvisation. If you’re not present in the moment, you will not be genuine or authentic.”

 

At Aetna, Green advocates for the arts as a tool to improve people’s health and offers unique ways for employees to express their emotions through creative means. Aetna is a 2011 recipient of the BCA 10: Best Businesses Partnering with the Arts in America.

 

Read the full interview here.

 

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Photo: courtesy of Forefront Magazine.

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What Improv Can Teach Your Team About Creativity And Collaboration

Posted by Ken and Scott Blanchard
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We knew any presentation by actors from The Second City, Chicago's world-famous improvisation troupe, would be funny. But who knew we would walk away with key insights into creating a collaborative work environment?

 

Yet that's exactly what happened after we participated in an exercise led by Second City actors Colleen Murray and Mark Sutton at our recent Client Summit. Murray and Sutton asked us and the 200 other participants to break into groups of three for an exercise that taught us a valuable lesson about the power of positive reinforcement in fostering creativity and innovation.

 

The exercise started off with an imagined scenario: plan a memorable company party. One person in each group was designated as the party planner. Their task? Come up with some creative party ideas. The other two members were instructed to listen to each new idea, but then reject it and explain why. The negative responses had a chilling effect on the person pitching new ideas. Even the most creative types gave up after four or five ideas. They lost their ability to come up with anything in the face of all that negativity.

 

Next, Murray and Sutton instructed the three-person groups to rotate roles. Now a new person pitched ideas while the other two listened. But this time, instead of rejecting the ideas outright, the listeners were instructed to use a more subtle “yes, but…” response and share why the idea wouldn't work. Again, it was a frustrating experience for the idea givers, who quit after trying a few times and getting nowhere.

 

Finally, the groups were instructed to rotate roles again. This time the two listeners were to use the phrase “yes, and…” to acknowledge, affirm, and build on the idea. The “yes, and…” response made all the difference. Ideas flowed. The groups generated innovative, creative approaches that none of the individuals would have come up with on their own. The increase in energy and collaboration was palpable as the room buzzed with animated conversations, laughing, high fives, and every other behavior you would expect to see when people are genuinely engaged with each other.

 

Could Your Team Use a Little Improv Training?

 

What's the response to new ideas in your department? Do people feel compelled to say “no” and explain why an idea won't work? Or are they more subtle, using a “yes, but…” approach? Or are you fortunate to work in a department that uses the most affirming “yes, and…” response? What's the impact on creativity and innovation within your team as a result?

 

If you want to use the techniques of improv to improve your team's creativity and collaboration, apply our three key takeaways from the Second City session.

 

1. Put your own ego needs aside

Focus on making your team members look good. What's right about their idea? How could it work? People with big egos aren't very good at improvisation because they constantly want to look better than the other person rather than work with the team to bring out the group's best. As Murray and Sutton explained, new team members often try hard to come up with funny lines and insert them into that night's show. Even when the new team member is successful in wedging in a punch line, it rarely gets the kind of laugh the newbie had hoped for. Usually, something completely unexpected and spontaneous gets the biggest laugh. But that only happens, Murray and Sutton explained, when the actors focus on making their fellow cast members look good, instead of trying to steal the spotlight for themselves.

 

2. Listen, instead of evaluating or waiting for your turn to talk

Another exercise we participated in was listening carefully to what our improv partners were saying--especially to their last word. That's because we had to start our sentences with that word after they finished. We were amazed we could put aside our concerns about what we'd say next as we really focused on what our partners were saying. This exercise drove home how working together to keep the conversation going creates a profound communication partnership that's rarely experienced at work.

 

3. Appreciate the contributions of others and say “thank you”

Listening, affirming, and collaborating requires time and attention. It can be hard work. Too often, people aren't communicating as much as they are taking turns having separate conversations. That's not good for improv and it's not good for collaboration in the workplace either. By saying “thank you,” or “I understand,” or “tell me more,” you bring out the best in people--which brings out the best in your group.

 

The funniest moments in improv occur when cast members focus on others and create space for something new and unexpected to happen. That's when one plus one equals more than two. When we focus on others and encourage their best, we set the stage for the magic of creativity, innovation, and collaboration.

 

(This post is one in a weekly series highlighting the pARTnership Movement, Americans for the Arts’ campaign to reach business leaders with the message that partnering with the arts can build their competitive advantage. Visit our website to find out how both businesses and local arts agencies can get involved!) - See more at: http://blog.artsusa.org/2013/12/05/what-improv-can-teach-your-team-about-creativity-and-collaboration/#more-22662

(This post, originally posted on FastCompany.com, is one in a weekly series highlighting the pARTnership Movement, Americans for the Arts’ campaign to reach business leaders with the message that partnering with the arts can build their competitive advantage.)

(This post is one in a weekly series highlighting the pARTnership Movement, Americans for the Arts’ campaign to reach business leaders with the message that partnering with the arts can build their competitive advantage. Visit our website to find out how both businesses and local arts agencies can get involved!) - See more at: http://blog.artsusa.org/2013/12/05/what-improv-can-teach-your-team-about-creativity-and-collaboration/#more-22662
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What designers can learn from improv

Posted by Emily Peck
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What designers can learn from improv

Fast Company knows that the arts can help your business.  Read how the five rules of improv (1. Don't Deny, 2. Listen, Watch and Concentrate, 3. Be Specific, 4. Change, change, change, 5. Get It on Its Feet) can make for a better customer experience.

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