Improv for business professionals may be a fast growing and innovative sector in the training and development market, but it has a long history and some very experienced facilitators. We chased down two giants of the Improv for Business sector, Neil Mullarkey (Comedy Store Players, ImprovYourBiz.com) and John Cremer (The Maydays), and asked them 5 key questions about their experiences and favourite Improvisation techniques in this fascinating and ever-evolving world.
1. Deep Learning
There are few training experiences that can match the thrill of improv training. It provides a unique and deep learning experience.
What areas does Improv for Business Professionals Training reach that other methods can’t?
John: “At a personal level: Hands on learning which provides live experiences of tackling novel challenges and finding previously hidden inner resources. An atmosphere of supportive experimentation that evokes self confidence and creativity”
Neil: “It is fun. It allows for ambiguity. It can help presenting, creativity, team work, strategy, leadership, selling… ”
John: “At a group level: The exploration of group mind and hard evidence of the power of collaboration in promoting innovation and team harmony. A disruption of the habitual hierarchy which gives introverts a chance to shine and extroverts a chance to reflect.”
2. The Moment of Realisation
It is all very well stepping out of your comfort zone, laughing and finding your inner creativity, but what about those enlightening moments when a concept really clicks?
What is the most common ‘Aha!’ moment when suddenly a concept becomes much clearer as a result of Improv for Business training?
John: “The moment where a delegate takes a risk to contribute to the proceedings and realises they have inner talents and abilities that have real value in their personal and professional lives”
Neil: “That listening is rather harder than people might think.”
3. Feel the Fear
It can be truly scary to stand before you colleagues without knowing what you are about to say, or even what you are about to be talking about. With the right support and some simple improvisation techniques, this fear can be turned into an empowering feeling of accomplishment. There are some people who find the fear paralysing at first.
How do you deal with someone who just doesn’t want to join in?
John: ” By gently exploring their resistance, by making it 100% fine that they feel uncomfortable, by demonstrating that other people in the group feel afraid and by inviting them to take a small, appropriate step that can move them out of the fear.”
4. Don’t Forget to Laugh
One thing that is guaranteed from an Improv training session is laughter. We find that laughter helps to relax participants and also embed deep learning. Clients will often talk to us years later and recall a moment from an Improv Session.
What are some of your most memorable comments from an Improv for Business session?
Neil: “That was fun, and I learnt so much”
John: “I did not realise that my colleague (or I myself) was so talented”
Neil: “My face is aching”
John: “Last time we did this my team decided to do a completely different pitch for a large project. They made a movie and created a cinema in the boardroom with popcorn. There was no Powerpoint or flipchart or spiel. Client loved it and we won a $3,000,000 piece of work”
5. Time for Change
The outcomes, embodied learning and take-aways from an Improv for Business workshop can be varied and sometimes unexpected. We look for real and lasting changes in people’s behaviour both in and out of the workplace.
What are the most common changes or effects to a Business after Improv training?
John: “CEOs saying – I want the team to be like this from now on”
Neil: “People just talk to each other more and are a little more human”
John: “A shift in group dynamics and language (yes and…. becomes a tangible concept)”#
Meet the Experts
John Cremer is an expert in Improvisation skills training. He has over 10 years experience in the sector and is an active member of The Maydays Improvisation Company as well as a Keynote Speaker (Speaker of the Decade: The Academy for Chief Executives) facilitator and Reading People expert. He has worked with clients such as Microsoft, HTC and Deloitte.
Neil is co-founder of the Comedy Store Players and has over 30 years experience of improvising on stage and television with a baffling array of comedians, actors and celebrities. He has used this experience to bring the techniques and secrets of improvisational theatre and comedy into businesses such as Barclays, Unilever and Google.