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How to Run a Company Improv Exercise

Try these tips and exercises to help bring out the creativity in your employees.
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Group improv exercises can get the creative juices flowing at your company, but, first, you'll need a few ground rules. Here's how to get the ball rolling:

1. Emphasize the business connection.

Anyone from a decent improv group can teach the basics of improvisation, says Chelsea Clarke from Upright Citizens Brigade, but you need an instructor who can communicate the goal of each exercise and how it connects to the workplace. For instance, "Yes, and..." can help keep ideas bubbling in brainstorming sessions, she says. And "Zip zap zop," an exercise in which participants must say the next word in a sequence when pointed to, helps employees stay engaged in meetings and open to opportunities.

2. Mix it up.

While it can make sense to focus on teams and departments that frequently need to collaborate and come up with ideas together, bringing together a more diverse cross section of workers can lead to significant breakthroughs on the organizational levels. "I've found great success when people at the highest levels and more entry levels are interacting together," says Daena Giardella of MIT's Sloan School of Management. "Improv is a democratizing element."

3. Reassure the skittish.

Nobody is going to have to stand on a stage alone--almost all exercises are done in pairs or larger groups. And there's no need to plan comic "bits" in advance. "We say at the start that we don't want you to try to be funny," says Robert Melley, director of business development at Boston's Improv Asylum. Otherwise, he says, if you aren't, "it's awkward for everyone." Things tend to get pretty silly, anyway.

Four Improv Exercises for Companies

Ready to get started? Try a few of these improv exercises with your employees.

Catch: Start by tossing an invisible ball around the room. Add as many balls as you like, keeping track of them all. Or instead of balls, throw invisible knives--or invisible babies.

Yes/No Contrapuntal: Two people take turns arguing different sides of a particular point, then switch to argue the opposite side.

Mind Meld: Two people stand in the center of a circle, count to three, and say any word. After taking a moment to silently figure out a word that connects those two words, they try again. The goal is eventually to say the same word.

Two-Headed Monster: Two pairs of people face each other. Each pair functions as a single two-headed monster. Each monster forms sentences by alternating words, one at a time per person. The monsters take turns speaking sentences to each other, starting with an audience prompt, such as "a dangerous job."

 

 

IMAGE: Getty Images
Last updated: Mar 27, 2014

ADAM BLUESTEIN

Adam Bluestein is a frequent contributor to Inc., writing about health care, innovation, and new technology. He lives with his wife and two children in Burlington, Vermont.




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