Six Things Improv Taught Me About Life and Business (part 2)

Last week I started a three part blog about the things that I learned from my semester of improv class, and how these lessons can be applied to life and business. This week I’ll pick up where I left off with . . .

3. It’s not about YOU, it’s about US

As my semester progressed, and as our class’ talent grew, it became evident which performers were better at what games, and who just had that natural gift for performance. However, another, less expected lesson surfaced –that regardless of the capability of some of the improvers, unless all the performers were doing well in a particular scene, it was going to crash and burn. Regardless of the efforts of one or two super-improvers, a scene’s success is determined by the entire group’s abilities.

The lesson for real life? Any group project or presentation needs to be a group effort. Especially in presentations for professional settings, one or two awkward or uncomfortable group members can through doubt on an entire presentation. I was lucky enough to be on a presentation team for the Barton International Group this last semester that presented some preliminary research to a client. Things were going well, until one of the clients asked a question that they were unable to answer. As the client kept on pressing for an answer, it became clear that my colleague didn’t have it (and the rest of us weren’t comfortable enough to speak up and assist). In the end, the client was forgiving, because we were all students, and it was a learning experience, albeit a hard lesson for all involved.

4.Give and Take

In order for a scene to work, performers need to establish a “give and take” relationship. All the performers work to add elements into the scene, incorporate elements added by others, and move the scene forward. This is much harder than it looks, as it requires an extraordinary amount of restraint and listening. Some of the best performers we had were people that hardly talked at all, and some of the worst performers were those who talked all the time.

The lesson for life is that whenever you’re in a group, whether for a project at work, a presentation at a conference, a committee for a volunteer organization, is to “take” more than you “give,” and encourage others to do the same. Listen twice as much as you talk.

Come back next week for the exciting conclusion!


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