Applied improvisation is the entrance to developing your skills for both professional and private life. It allows you to increase your flexibility in a fun and enjoyable way, for example by increasing your confidence in presentation skills, enhancing cooperation and team building, and boosting your creativity.
Originally, improvisation techniques were developed to help actors training for the stage to create spontaneity and collaboration and to help people adapt to unforeseen situations by exposing them to scenarios where they inevitably lose control.
Nowadays, applied improvisation is used in a lot of different contexts because its tools are so powerful and useful for everyone. As a professional, you need to be able to adapt to changes quickly, today even more than ever. Especially scientifically educated people approach problems and challenges in a structured manner on a cognitive level, which is of course appropriate in some situations. But it is as important to be able to break your thinking patterns and think outside of the box.
What if you approached a new concept with “yes, and …” instead of with “yes, but …”? Applied improvisation lessons to welcome loss of control, accept situations as they are and failure. Embrace what you get and build from there, is the key message. The three pillars of applied improvisation describe exactly this: i) be in the present; ii) accept whatever you face; iii) take risks and have the courage to fail. Since our workshops are in small groups, they are a very safe environment: a good moment to start daring to fail.
Celebrate your mistakes & improve your communication
Our education system trains us to hate ourselves for our mistakes during our education, but who defines what a mistake is? Instead of fearing new and unknown situations, applied improvisation helps to come up with creative approaches and solutions. This helps to connect with others and build empathy when interacting with others. How can you give space to each other and communicate in a positive way? How can you take risks and learn to laugh about things that go wrong, together?
In applied improvisation, we celebrate mistakes and make them something special. Mistake are only things that happened – there is no need to judge! We redefine them as opportunities and don’t see them as failure. Just go from the moment and use improvisation to make the next step. Once you have got to know the tools, you can apply them to real-life examples. This is a lot of fun! We laugh a lot during the exercises, and people will still start giggling when they think back about certain situations even weeks later.
A one-day introductory training will obviously not enable you to react with calm and serenity to all situations you may encounter. But it gives you the tools to train and play with it constantly. Former participants tell that they came with a certain behaviour in mind that they wanted to change, something they struggled with in both professional and/or private life. After getting to know applied improvisation, they could remember the techniques when facing certain situations. In the long run, applied improvisation teaches you to deal with change, which is especially important in our fast-changing society.
Imagine you enter a job interview. If you don’t think about winning or failing, but about adapting to the other person and build from the questions to make it a pleasant conversation for both of you, you will express confidence and ability to deal with all kinds of situations. And on top of that, you may even enjoy the challenge.
There are people who go on a stage and entertain a huge audience. What makes them so good at it is their flexibility, which can come in different flavours. This can be for example the presence they radiate, how they use their face or how they oversee situations and atmospheres. However, you certainly don’t need these talents in order to have fun and benefit from applied improvisation. Anyone can learn to use it, and it is not about being good or bad at it (this would again be a form of judgement which we don’t want to follow on). It is about the fun and joy you get from it, and the flexibility of mind you create.
Try it yourself!
Re-training your brain takes time. As with any skill or muscle you train, it requires regular practice to change your thinking patterns. In our team, we have applied improvisation sessions every week, and we laugh and learn a lot. In the long run, the techniques of applied improvisation can help you to cope with changes, expectations and pressure from yourself and your surroundings, and enhance your creativity.
Geraldine Sinnema is an experienced trainer and coach. She enjoys increasing people’s awareness of their talents and helping them shine. You can find her workshops and trainings here.