To celebrate the year 2014 and the holidays, All Points’ holiday party involved an improv workshop at one of Chicago’s most popular comedy clubs. Known worldwide for its groundbreaking comedy scene spawning legends like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers, Chicago has a reputation for improv comedy greatness.
Learning from the best, the improv workshop gave the All Points team the chance to connect outside the office and interact in a way that we don’t normally. For those unfamiliar, improvisational theater (or “improv”) is a form of theater where most or all of what is performed is created at the moment it is performed. Thriving on collaboration, creativity and communication, the tenets of improv are easily adapted to the workplace. This sort of humor helps people learn and retain real skills.
So what did we learn from our two-hour foray into the world of comedy that can be applied to our professional lives? Three key components:
During the workshop, we were asked to stand in a circle and throw an imaginary ball to a team member. Upon throwing said object, we were to say, “red ball,” and when the ball was “caught,” the recipient was to say, “thank you, red ball.” Once we were all used to the red ball, the director threw into the mix “red bull,” “red bowl” and “rebel.” This caused confusion, and, frankly, chaos, until we learned to communicate our intentions.
As anyone who’s ever worked in a group project at work or school knows, communication is the key to ensuring a project is successful. Clearly articulating your expectations makes all the difference, and it also makes conflicts and misunderstandings much easier to resolve. Good communication helped us articulate the differences between each imaginary object.
Understandably, not everyone is jumping out of his or her seat in excitement when a stranger asks him or her to stand up on stage in front of his or her bosses and coworkers to participate in a potentially humiliating comedy routine. However, many of us are placed in these situations daily – stepping out of our comfort zones to best serve our clients and customers and stretching ourselves to be the best we can be.
At the workshop, we partook in several silly exercises that helped foster closeness between colleagues – for example, we stood in a circle and all tried to clap at the same time. Some people got it right on the first try and some took a little longer to get the hang of it. But whether it’s an improv skit or an impromptu presentation on an unknown topic, we learned to approach our problems with positive thinking and enthusiasm, doing whatever it takes to ensure success.
One of the most important pillars of improv is positivity. We learned to build off of one another’s ideas using constructive phrases like, “yes, and…” As we learned, this phrase is powerful because it allows us to validate our partners while still adding something. Saying “yes, and…” to an idea that may at first sound far-fetched or hard to accomplish leads to creativity and growth. In the workplace, this translates to being willing to learn from our coworkers and peers while still adding something positive to every interaction.
At the All Points office, these qualities – communication, enthusiasm and positivity – are essential to our success. A great example of this is a recent internal project completed to showcase our monthly results to our clients. The project was a perfect example of collaboration, because people from separate PR and social media teams were able to work seamlessly with leadership to look at a problem from all angles and improve a situation for the entire office.
When put into practice, the skills learned in improv can be beneficial to offices and groups large and small. As we learned in the workshop, always say “yes!”