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
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
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.
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