Laughter has long been viewed as a form of release from the pressure you face in your daily life – something many yearn to find in the workplace, especially those forced to succumb to a dreary work environment, day after day. But few consider the opportunity to apply the concept of laughter, or more pointedly improvisational comedy tactics, to workplace dynamics.
We recently took a group of clients on a full-day immersive experience (our proprietary Passport DayTM) through the city of Boston to inspire their brand’s creative development. That day, we got the chance to explore the Improv Asylum in the historic North End of Boston where co-founder and CEO, Norm Laviolette, explained the concept behind his improvisational comedy theater.
In improv, everything builds, always. There are no no’s, only “yes… and’s.” It’s an experience designed to strengthen even the most outlandish ideas. Because, well, that makes it funny.
It’s not just “shoot from the hip;” it’s a team sport. Where standup comedy is golf – a single person making all decisions about the content and flow – improv comedy is a team sport – where comedians work with each other and the audience to build something custom, unique, and as cheesy as it may be, once in a lifetime. While the structure and high-level jokes may be similar, no two improv comedic experiences are alike in terms of the content.
This idea of “yes…and” means you’re creating from a place of joy. You’re finding energy in something seemingly mundane or unimportant and amplifying it, to use it for good.
And then there’s the most important thing of all: listening. To be successful in improv you must listen to the beat and rhythm – reading the room, feeling the energy, and anticipating what could come next to determine ways to help amplify the humor hidden inside it.
But the best part? That energy you feel during improv stays with you long after you leave the stage. It changes your perspective and makes you more aware of what’s possible in your day. It inspires optimism and encourages you to be present in the little moments in your day that could bring some levity.
The improv strategy is to LISTEN, NEGOTIATE, AGREE, DECIDE, ACT. Sounds simple enough to apply to the workspace, right? Maybe not, but a few tips below might help enforce some of the lessons learned above from the power of improv, thinking on your feet and making something out of nothing. And if you can create those “you had to be there” moments in a pitch, then you’re really winning.
Try it! The worst thing that happens is everyone laughs at you, right?