Business Improv Training Is a Fun Way to Improve Soft Skills Which Creates Career and Business Transformation
By Andrew Deutsch
Often, when I first discuss my improv skills workshops with new prospective clients, they grin and say: “Improv skills – that’s way too fun – you mean it can really help my business?” The answer is Yes, and! That’s why many companies in all business sectors are seeking out business improv companies to teach improv skills to their employees. American Express, Capitol One, Bayer Healthcare, Colgate-Palmolive, Cushman & Wakefield, Google, Hilton Hotels, Lexus, Mazda, John Hancock, Neutrogena, the Vanguard Group, Inc. and Verizon Wireless are just a small number of corporations who have utilized the talents of improv companies to teach improvisation skills.
That is also why some business schools including MIT Sloan School of Management and UCLA Anderson School of Management are using improvisation classes to teach the soft skills of creativity, power listening, problem-solving, negotiation skills, team building and leadership skills.
While many people might think of improvisation as unscripted comedy, it can be applied to any form of communication. As we say at BusinessProv, there is no pressure to be funny at our workshops, but everyone has fun!
These are some of the ways that improv skills can be used to improve your company:
1. Thinking on Your Feet and Responding and Adapting Well to Unexpected Events
The very nature of improv is that one of your partners may suddenly take the story in a new direction, and you have to be ready to adapt to the new situation that they are presenting. They also need to be ready to adapt to a sudden change that you make to the storyline. The skill of responding well to the unexpected is especially important in negotiations, implementing challenging new plans from management, and dealing with uncertainties for start-up companies, where you rarely have control over what happens.
2. Teamwork and Collaboration
“Yes, and” is the core principle of improvisation. The “Yes” part of the principle tells you to accept a person’s idea, and the “and” means adding something to it. In business terms, this means accepting any idea that’s brought to the table and then taking that idea further. This principle puts you in the mindset of being open to others’ ideas and building on them, rather than immediately criticizing them, which closes off communication. People are likely to contribute more if they don’t need to be concerned about being criticized.
Another principle of improv is to listen actively to your team so you can quickly pick up on changes in the storyline. In business, it’s not uncommon for people to be either so worried or concerned about what they are going to say, that they become distracted from what is being said. Also, it’s easy to be distracted at work by text messages and social media. In business it’s very important to learn to listen actively in order to really understand what someone is communicating to you. When people communicate, they provide a lot of information beyond the words they are saying. Improv training teaches you to listen in a powerful way that facilitates teamwork and collaboration.
Being open-minded is part of practicing “Yes, and” – it is essential for brainstorming and creative thinking. Being open to creative ideas allows new important solutions to be considered. Creativity is especially beneficial in the early stages of problem-solving and in developing new projects for established companies, and is equally important for start-up companies. Critical thinking is also fostered by improv. The relaxation and openness of improv creates objectivity, logical judgment and the association of various related ideas, which are all part of critical thinking and promote effective problem-solving.
4. Client Development
By using improv skills, you will find it easier to listen actively to what your prospective or existing client is saying and be in agreement with your client (“yes”). Then you will be able to add to the conversation how you can be of service to your potential or existing client (“and”). Your ability to creatively problem-solve will also be increased by your training in improv skills, which will enable you to provide your clients with excellent service.
By further honing your soft skills through BusinessProv training you will have an enhanced ability to add collaboration, fun, ingenuity and success to your company.
“I had the good fortune to attend Andrew Deutsch’s workshops. I have witnessed, first-hand, his keen ability to not only build trust among people but also to engender warmth, collegiality, and collaboration among complete strangers! Today, with communications and people competing for our attention and interest like never before, “Andrew is a welcome catalyst for more effective listening and more active engagement with each other and the world around us. I have every confidence in Andrew’s ability to help others thrive in their business lives.”
− Deborah Burns, Managing Principal, Brand Architect of Burns Communications