Respecting other people's ideas is what it takes to turn
a regular old task force into an ensemble, says Robert Lowe, an
actor and consultant who's just published "Improvisation
Inc.: Harnessing Spontaneity to Engage People and Groups" (Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer,
$19.95). It's the difference between giving the "yes,
but" response and the "yes, and" response.
"Yes, but" sends a mixed signal-both acceptance and
rebuttal, he says, while, "yes, and" acknowledges as
well as advances an idea.
And that's the creed that improv actors live by. Atlanta-based
Lowe has been teaching such "improv skills" to managers
for 20 years, in workplaces that range from the Metro Atlanta
Rapid Transit Authority to AT&T. (You can learn more about him
and find links to other improv sites at www.improvisationinc.com.)
Improv is all about collaboration, communication and
connectedness, says Jude Treder-Wolff, a cabaret artist and
president of Lifestage, a workplace training company in Smithtown.
"It teaches you to be more generous and not to be so worried
about yourself...Improv calls upon a person's ability to go beyond
the need to be 'right,' look good, play it safe." It helps us
bypass our "restrictive conditioning" and flex our
"imaginative and creative muscles," says Treder-Wolff,
whose company designs and conducts experiential, interactive
theater programs to help with on-the-job team building, problem
solving, stress and diversity.
Besides, who doesn't need to develop more creativity today?
We're all like balloons, she says -we have the potential to expand
-"creativity is to our personality what helium is to a
balloon." And once you've been "inflated," you
never quite go back to the same old way of thinking.
One of the exercises she uses to stimulate out-of-the-box
thinking starts with giving a group a bag containing five objects.
The object is for members to use those objects as the basis of a
story. But you can't call the objects what they really are. So if
you reach in and pull out a rock, you have to say something like,
"This is an over-baked loaf of bread." The whole idea is
learning how to approach things from a different angle, she says.
If you're interested in catching the improv spirit, you can
look into a couple of upcoming events. First, the New York Company
of Friends-an e-mail list affiliated with Fast Company magazine-is
holding "Improv, Not Just for Comedians!" Nov. 9 in
Manhattan. The speaker is Joe Keefe, executive producer of
Chicago-based Second City Communications, a group that brings
improv comedy to the corporate world. The event is for members,
but the price of membership is just right -it's free. You can
learn more about it at www.fastcompany.com.
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