Yes, And. All you need

Yes, And. All you need

My metaphorical pharmacy stocks one remedy only, and that improv. Improv can offer support and often a cure to the illness of an overcrowded, fearful and self-conscious mind. If ever there was a time that one’s mind could be overcrowded, fearful and self-conscious, this is it.

Improv asks that we see the “offer” in every situation. What does this allow me to do, rather than forbid? What can I learn from this? What good can be gleamed from this situation? Every generation has churned out entrepreneurs who saw the apparently non-existent “offer”, and make millions packaging and selling the solution of that age.

Improv is a base in every solution. It can enrich any conversation and deepen our understanding of all our interactions. Improv doesn’t require a PhD or a certain qualification, it only asks that you are mindful of a few certain principles.

Over the years I have focused myself on these principles. Over time these principles have become a way of life for me. I call this newer perspective on life “Improv-Eyes”. Seeing the world through the lens of improv stops me dwelling on the negative. The lens focuses on opportunity, potential collaboration and saying “yes”.

3 reasons why Improv isn’t just for stage

I have talked with people from different countries about improv. The degree to which improv is widely known as a learning tool varies from country to country. Obviously improv needs to clarification to an American, and it seems better understood in the UK than Ireland, and thankfully its reach continues to group as does its impact.

Here in my opinion are the three main reasons we need to take this funny stuff more seriously:

1: It works quickly. Any trainer or consultant using improvisation will tell you that the effects of participating in an improv exercise are quick and often surprising for participants. In today’s cluttered work environment, it is nice to find something inherently efficient for improving numerous skills such as confidence, creativity and communication.

2: It is easily replicable. Providing you remember the basic rules of improv, a good facilitator can run the games in-house after seeing and possibly participating in the exercises for themselves.

3: It is fun. We can all sit through and endure PowerPoint presentations and bestow praise on yet another glossy training manual, but why would you choose this over a playful option for learning? I have seen first-hand that a powerful transition in groups occurs when they understand that they have permission to play. Within that playful space, true inspiration flourishes. I have yet to find a PowerPoint presentation that gives me the same sense of freedom.

Improv offers a treasure trove of treats to the group that says “Yes”, and tries it out. May it continue to spread amongst our communities and make us all happier.

The day I started liking, and learning improv

I had been attending improv workshops for about 2 months. I was painfully aware of how awkward I felt, and how blank my usually full mind went when called upon to be spontaneous. That was the whole point of course, but it felt so unnatural to me.

One particular Monday evening we played the audience game. This game involved all players bar one sit as an audience and listen to the other attempt to “be funny”. If they decided it wasn’t funny, they got up and left the room. The game ended once the last audience member left the room.

My ineptitude finally had run out of places to hide. I dreaded this exercise, so I opted to be one of the first to try it. As I stood up in front of my su-peer-iors, one internal voice clearly warned me of my impending doom. Then another one simple spoke two words “f’!@k it”.

I found the second voice to be the more calm headed of the two so I decided to follow its advice. I began shooing my audience out, insulting them and basically telling them how much I no longer cared what they thought. I can honestly say in that moment I did that for myself and nobody else. Funnily enough, they laughed.

Improv is a gift for many applications. It can bring much-needed play into any space, work or otherwise. It can also free us as individuals. That “f!@k it” mindset follows all performers onto the stage where audiences laugh at. This same mindset gives permission for all of us to express something authentic, individual and special. The reception may be laughter, but it is always an appreciative reception.

I write about teaching improv to children as they are the easy converts. They still hold onto their “f!@k it” bubble onto some way into their school life. Us adults are another story. A “f!@k it” bubble is a vital part of our mental health and yet we go out of our way to avoid it. Sad as it is, it can be the very thing we avoid that proves the one thing we really need.

Life is Improv, why don’t we teach it?

Last night my daughter transformed a rolled up oven sheet into a broomstick. I said “yes”, rolled up another sheet and went on a short ride through the skies with her. Today that sheet could be a magic carpet, a fan or something I could never dream of concocting.

I am hoping that in two years when she starts school there will be space for this re-imagining. I can’t imagine that it is easy for any teacher to keep 30 spinning plates that are inquisitive young minds going at once. That is multitasking on another level. But having some spin on some plates at some points might be possible.

There is science behind teaching. Pedagogy informs our teacher trainers of what has worked and what no longer works. Improv is a relatively new kid on the block in terms of teacher aids. Papers on the topic don’t stretch back beyond 20 years. Drama of course has been proven as a learning tool. Improv still seems shrouded in mystery and cynicism.

Surely though, in a society where we need quick thinkers, people who will question the status quo, innovators, team players and good communicators, we should teach improv? Improv provides a quick and easy forum to maintain that young inquisitive mind that re-imagines a boring old kitchen object. In addition to teaching the young bloods at Universities, as it the case in many colleges in the US, surely it is an easier task to preserve the curious and unconstrained young minds that start school already creative. Just a thought……

Creativity is a Journey, not the Destination

Do you want more ideas?

Do you want to get unstuck?

Are you still looking for that quick fix?

Wouldn’t it be great if you only had to make one sales call, and sales kept coming through? Wouldn’t it be great if you only had to upload one social media post, and your marketing was complete? We know that sales and marketing take time and effort, so why we devote substantially less time to creativity, when it underpins two of our most important business tasks?

Do you remember the first time you had to make a cold call or knock on someone’s door to sell them something? We have been selling since we had to look for our first sponsorship for a charity endeavour, and we have been selling since; be it ourselves or a product or service. We know we need to keep these skills sharp. Why then is creativity not seen as a core skill of business?

Creativity is seen as something that is important, and it is talked about, but how well is creativity understood by companies when it comes to applying it? Does getting an artist in for a day-long workshop cover your creativity needs? Sure, as much as a one-day sales training programme with no follow-up will meet your sales needs now and into the future.

We need to see creativity as on par with sales and marketing and as a direct contributor to companies’ bottom lines. As such, it needs investment of time, attention and finance, but like any well-researched investment it will yield far more in the long term than put in.

Resources for Special Needs Assistants

Hello All, it was great meeting you and here is the list as promised.


Keeping younger people occupied

Here is a technique for keeping children(5-12) occupied on car journeys or indeed any trip which involves you, them , and the need for quiet

Improv-Eyes – An analysis of the impact of using improvisation exercises with primary schools students for improved listening, concentration and creativity

ImprovEyes Paper

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