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Improv for Business: Just Call Us Second City

May 3, 2018  |   Caitlin Reiff

As if we need another excuse to let our freak flags fly, a few weeks ago our newly appointed “events and activities” committee (aka #partyppl) orchestrated a Friday afternoon visit from the one and only Understudies Improv Company: UW’s improv comedy group. These hilarious individuals not only perform on and off campus, but, lucky for us, offer improv business training to groups like ours.

Not only did the Friday afternoon improv for business workshop serve as a perfect outlet for the pre-weekend, rowdy energy typical of the TDR crew, but, fun and games aside, helped to teach important lessons about communication and teamwork.

Hold Up (Wait a Minute) – What is Improv?

You may or may not be familiar with the premise of improv comedy. It starts with a prompt (traditionally, a suggestion from the audience). The performers (us!) act out the prompt, honoring the age-old improv principle of “yes, and…” Following the “yes, and” model means that performers need to accept what their peers say and build upon their line of thinking.

Cool… Not What is Improv for Business?

Glad you asked! For years, companies have been inviting improv groups to run workshops at their organizations. As it turns outs, the “yes, and” principle at the foundation of improv can work wonders when applied in an office setting. It may even lead to the following:

  • Improved listening and communication skills
  • Enhanced presentation skills
  • Improved adaptability and acceptance of change
  • A cooperative, team-oriented environment
  • More confidence, creativity, and contributions from employees

Sounds pretty neat, huh? Once we got past some nervous jitters, the sesh proved to be a roaring success. Check out a few of our crew members’ favorite moments from the experience:

My favorite part? Jimmy pretending to be Shakira… while having no idea who Shakira is.
Jimmy: “I only like to sing my own songs.”
Crew: “Oh – what songs do you sing?”
Jimmy: “… I don’t know.”

My favorite improv game was the party host game. During it, the “party host” hosted a theme party and had to guess his guests’ costumes. This led to certain “party guests” throwing down some veryyy serious dance moves.

The crew also weighed in on how they intended to utilize improv principles around the office going forward:

The improv session reminded us that communication, both verbal and non-verbal, is essential. It also demonstrated the importance of working together to accomplish something bigger than ourselves.

“Yes, and” is a great tool to encourage teamwork and collaboration. It’s a more productive, positive version of “no, but.” We all make mistakes, and practicing having each other’s back – bolstering each other up – was an amazing experience.

A big thanks to the Understudies Improv Company for ending our week on a high note!

image of Caitlin Reiff

Caitlin Reiff

 | Content Strategist