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Using improvisation for training

                                          In Figure 1, my intention is to show       de...
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Improvisation in Training


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How can you use improvisation in training to make your point? In this article we explain how.

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Improvisation in Training

  1. 1. Delivery Using Some practical points Using techniques for icebreakers and energisers Impro exercises can change people’s state by having can choose to bring out a learning point. A useful one is that when people try to be creative at work, they may not get it right first time, and this is acceptable. improvisation for them move and think differently. They are ideal to break the ice and energise; however, this may induce cynicism (see my article Using energisers to enhance Improvisation techniques can challenge anyone You can plunge people into the deep end, but you will find it works better if you build up the level of your workshops in Issue 19). It is better to use them as risk gradually, growing confidence and trust with less training a metaphor for a skill. An example of this is Movies, (see below) which I adapted from an icebreaking exercise. challenging exercises, so that even the more introverted people find it comfortable to tackle less conventional exercises. If people are reluctant to take part, you might like to say something like, ‘This Movies exercise is optional, but when you take part you will John Brooker Have people pair up and position themselves so find it very rewarding’. they can hear clearly but cannot see each other’s faces (side by side, facing in opposite directions, Your reward will come when one of the quieter organisational scripts) for works well). people in the group displays a flash of brilliance with About improvisation a subtle use of expression, or links the storyline back consistency of performance. Key learning points The public became aware of Ask one person to describe their favourite film to to a previous point, creating a great deal of laughter. q Train people to use theatrical q Improving project the other; what it is and why it is. They must speak improvisational comedy (typically improvisation skills, and you management, to ensure for one minute, non-stop, and the other person True, there is risk in using improvisation techniques, called ‘impro’ in the UK) through can complement the policies, outcomes. must not interrupt. Swap speakers and repeat. but I am sure you will find the rewards outweigh the hit show Whose Line is it processes and procedures in Anyway?. ‘Serious’ theatre uses them. Enjoy playing! q Enhancing time management, organisations. Movies can be a conventional icebreaker but, by improvisation too, developing to improve personal q Use improvisation techniques skills that organisations can efficiency. changing the usual speaking position, using Answers to the exercise on page 2 to help you develop skills in adopt to: asynchronous speaking and insisting on ‘constant Three skills you might develop in call centres, using One others which they can use in This indicates that individuals speech’, we can highlight skills such as listening, focus q deal better with new Word Story are: many situations. and organisations wish to situations and spontaneity. What other lessons can you identify? q listening q These techniques can also gain control in order to make help you become a better q enhance key skills, such as life more predictable. However, q staying in the moment – not thinking of your next word Justifying improvisation trainer. communication. reliance on these methods q flexible thinking. Someone has just asked you why they should invest q You can use improvisation assumes that the organisation’s As a trainer, you will benefit if in training to develop improvisation skill. Three Now, where might you use these skills in your training? exercises to raise energy, but internal and external you understand the techniques reasons you would give are ... ? make them relevant to your environment will remain people use to train improvisation topic. reasonably stable. skills, both in training others and in enhancing your own skills. Some challenges Harold Macmillan was References Improvisation: a beginning 1 M. Basadur, The Power of Innovation, Pitman Publishing, 1995. Using improvisation in work supposedly asked what worried Improvisation doesn’t always work Once ... long ... ago ... a ... small him in his job as Prime Minister 2 K. Koppett, Training to Imagine, Stylus Publishing, 2001. Storylines break down because someone ... giant ... ran ... a ... parking ... Why train people to improvise? of Great Britain. ‘Events, dear 3 J. Heron, The Complete Facilitator’s Handbook, Kogan Page, 2000. misunderstands or mishears a point. They might boutique. To ... park ... at ... the After all, people improvise all boy’, he replied. be thinking of their next word rather than listening ... oven ... you ... had ... to ... the time; they don’t use a script Further reading to the current word. See what some beginners do wear ... hot ... soup ... in ... your to run their lives. For good or bad, unpredictable For more improvisation exercises, see the following: when One Word Story starts with ‘Once ... upon ... a ... underwear. events happen, and those I. Gesell, Playing Along, Whole Person Associates, 1997. ... ‘ and you then continue with ‘rocket’ (or an You can use stories to begin a To understand this, consider a organisational scripts, plans 1 P. Z. Jackson, 582 Ways To Improvise In Training, Crownhouse Publishing, alternative) instead of ‘time’. When the story breaks 2003. training course or an article. strategic reason for people to and to-do lists sometimes fail. down, you can throw it away – which is valid – or you As this article is about improvise. Even when the event is improvisation, I improvised my predictable, people can find ‘story’ using the One Word Story Reacting to unpredictable themselves in new situations – technique. Though it is designed events for example, through mergers for teams, I adapted it for solo Many organisations value the and strategic partnerships – in Author use, creating the story quickly – ability to organise, and put a which no script exists. John Brooker is managing director of Yes! And... A keen actor in his time, he uses improvisation techniques in focusing on the next word, not great deal of effort and training workshops and training to develop the skills mentioned in the article and also runs an improvisation workshop for the end goal – and using the first into the following: Cue improvisation – not at the teams to build their performance. word that came into my mind. In q Developing and using policies, expense of planning and Telephone: 020 8869 9990 • E-mail: • Website: short, I improvised. processes and procedures (the evaluation, but to complement it. TRAIN the TRAINER • Issue 34 TRAIN the TRAINER • ©Fenman Limited 2005
  2. 2. Using improvisation for training In Figure 1, my intention is to show describes presence as ‘having or ‘Brontosaurus, I think’. The offer and non-verbal language, and to Some obstacles to improvisation that you can use improvisational something about the posture and may be physical: your partner respect the needs of your fellow Ideally, when the unexpected theatre techniques in training demeanour that draws the attention makes some kind of action or gives actors. It requires you to happens, everyone improvises as a metaphor for aspects of of those around’. Improvisation you an ‘object’, and you either participate and allows you to brilliantly and problems disappear. organisational life. In doing so, you develops presence by teaching how verbalise – ‘Wow, you’re baking express emotions appropriately. However, there are issues: can help people to develop the to hold the body correctly. cakes’ – or complement the action. These are many of the skills you q If the culture places more value on qualities, behaviours and skills (right- As well as agreeing to any offer, need to be assertive. organisational skills, people will hand side of diagram) they need to Building stories you also build on it: ‘A focus on that at the expense of tackle a variety of organisational Moving from first words or actions, brontosaurus? Let’s take it for a Deferring judgement improvisation skills. challenges (left-hand side of improvising the development of ride!’. You act leaping on its back To accept an offer in diagram). An additional benefit is believable characters, and creating and riding it. We call this improvisation, you have to q If people spend a great deal of that they have the confidence of plots are all facets that improvisation acceptance and building of offers defer judgement of it and take time using their organisational knowing that they have tackled draws out. ‘Yes! And ... ‘. what is given. Failure to do so skills, their ability to improvise these challenges outside the work (‘Yes, but ... ‘) quickly destroys may wither. environment. Let’s explore the Behaviours for building Making others look good a scene. q Many people prefer evaluation diagram further. empathy The other rule is that you should and planning when problem make your partner(s) look good. There is a basic structure to Tolerating ambiguity solving,1 and so may be less likely Building trust and Examples may be simple, like Ambiguous means ‘open to to improvise through choice. improvisational theatre, formed demonstrating qualities ensuring your partner catches the multiple interpretations, vague primarily by two rules (which, of Whilst reading about the skills, If this reminds you of your Members of a team must trust each ball in a warm-up exercise or that and unclear’. If you participate in course, can be broken when all consider what people might use organisation or your clients’ other if they are to act effectively you step into the spotlight to help improvisation, you have to take an participants know they are being them for in organisations. organisations, be aware that you can and consistently on stage or in an when someone is lost for words or offer and make an interpretation broken). In reviewing these rules we help to enhance improvisation skills. organisation. Kat Koppett 2 suggests an action. You never refuse an that the audience can understand. can identify where the need for Thinking and acting a formula for trust, which you might offer and ignore one only if you It is a challenge for those who certain behaviours arises. spontaneously find useful: have a better offer. require certainty, and practising it Enhancing operational aspects The need to provide offers of organisational life To work effectively, improvisation can help build the skill. (Credibility x Empathy) How might you use these two continuously requires you to think The skills and qualities a person Trust = requires some structure. Two rules to and act quickly, and not to censor rules to enhance your training or perceived level of risk follow are these: your ideas because of concern Using physical movement requires to improvise on stage may workshops? 1 Agree with anything offered and In improvisation, you are also enhance the operational aspects about feeling foolish. That is, the higher the risk, the more build on it. (‘Yes! And ... ‘) encouraged to act rather than of organisational life. See below for credibility and empathy you require verbalise, to pour a cup of tea further explanation of this. 2 Always make your partner look Skills Finding links and connections to gain trust. rather than to suggest having one. good. When the team performs, much This makes the scene more vivid As you will see from Figure 1, power comes from people finding Exercise This formula was the catalyst for and real, much like the use of Accepting and building on offers there are a number of key skills links and connections with Jot down three skills you might my diagram. To build the qualities demonstrations in training. The first rule is that you must accept that improvisers use to enable the material used earlier in the scene. develop in a call centre, using the of credibility and empathy, people any ‘offer’ your partner makes to behaviours above. Some of these Humour will derive from this, One Word Story exercise. See the require the behaviours and skills Using appropriate body you. This offer may be verbal: your skills will help develop different rather than from the telling of back page for suggestions. shown. language partner says ‘Wow, look, a dinosaur!’ behaviours, but I have shown them jokes. Indeed, jokes are as likely to only once for clarity. An example is make an audience groan as laugh. Body language can say much in a Behaviours for building and you say something to affirm that making and building on offers. scene. One example is the way in credibility you accept the offer: ‘Yes’ or ‘Great’ Focus which you may change a Developing qualities, Being credible in front of your peers To develop scenes, good relationship by changing your behaviours and skills body language, implying a involves the following. improvisation requires you to focus Imagine yourself on stage with a completely on your colleagues, different status. Playing with body team of others. Out front is an Making offers listening to, and observing them at language in scenes can help you expectant audience, waiting for This requires the initiation of actions all times and staying in the understand how you may influence your improvised production. You and dialogue in order to be able to present. This means pushing other your status. This ability to have no script, just a couple of work from a blank sheet, although thoughts out of your mind and not influence your status and the rules that provide a basic structure suggestions from the audience may thinking of what you might say status of your fellow actors can to progress. The stage lights rise. set the context and the basic next. It is very similar to the skills help make others look good and Ready? What abilities, skills and characters. taught in meditation. so increase empathy. qualities do you think you and your team will require to provide a Using presence Being assertive How might you use these skills at good performance? Figure 1 will A participant enhances credibility by Improvisation requires you to work? Look again at the left-hand help you to answer that. having presence. John Heron3 Fig. 1: Abilities and skills communicate clearly, using verbal side of Figure 1. TRAIN the TRAINER TRAIN the TRAINER