Improv in the workplace is now a well established and highly valued method of training. At The Maydays, we offer improv training courses which take the principles of improv comedy and apply these to other realms, most often to the benefit of business and organisations. Improv training, in this sense, is different from the improv comedy classes (such as short-form and long-form improv courses) that we also offer to the general public.
OK, so we know what it’s not. Let’s look at how improv in the workplace works, some more at what improv training is, what it does, and how The Maydays do it. By Richard Bradford
Improv in the Workplace – why?
The very fundamentals of improvisation are just great for business, because of something very special which happens during improv training. When applied to the world of work, improvisation puts people in touch with their true selves, it gets them focussed like you may never have seen them before. It has them laughing uncontrollably in their place of work, and it has them interacting with each other in new and fresh ways. Improv training frequently goes so far as to redefine working relationships and forge new friendships, where previously there was only a job description, process map and an organisation chart.
Improv training is the antithesis of silo thinking, guarded remarks and ‘saying one thing then doing another’. Improv in the workplace breaks down boundaries, it build deep human connections and it helps people to become transparent and open, even at work.
Improv training – how it works
Improv training is a unique, experience-based format, which, in The Maydays’ case, draws on some 150 or more individual exercises which can be collated and used in very tightly honed ways to move people into a different mental perspective.
This often starts by creating a safe space, with exercises that you can’t get wrong, or rather where getting them wrong is a cause for celebration. Whilst we know this is no recipe for business success, it does serve a pivotal purpose. People relax. They smile. They start to breathe more deeply, and the brain releases endorphins, and other feel-good chemicals. You can actually observe that happening in the room, and we can pretty much pinpoint exactly when it will happen.
With this critical state change accomplished, the next step in improv training is often to play with comfort levels. We will do this extremely incrementally, and most participants don’t realise for some time that their comfort level are being toyed with. By ‘scaffolding’ the situation well, and designing the right size ‘steps’ in the exercises, we elevate people at their own rate, and we leave no one behind.
Once we’ve removed the ability to fail, and taken them through some fun warm ups, the atmosphere in the room has changed considerably, and most people are already starting to see their colleagues in a different light, and sensing a much deeper connection. Watch the levels of eye contact soar too. Most people in the room will agree that they feel entirely different from how they were when they walked in the room that morning. And then much prefer how they are now.
About now, we can start applying our improv training to some of the outcomes you’re looking to achieve with your group. Oh, and incidentally, that group could be 10, 50, 100, 500 or more. We can run large-scale simultaneous, synchronous or asynchronous improv training workshops for all groups and formats, and anywhere in the world (with a little advance notice). Read more about our work with large groups
Improv training – some common aims and objectives
Here is a list of some of the most common desired outcomes which cause organisations to choose improv training:
– Being more effective at sales pitches or presentations
– Thinking with flexibility and agility in the moment
– Teams working more effectively with each other
– More confidence and communicative ability at work
– Increased creativity and innovation. Being able to build on ideas
– Developing more self-awareness and emotional intelligence
– More engagement at work – better connection to overall objectives
– Being mindfulness and present – staying focussed and thinking clearly
– Showing genuine positivity and happiness at work
– Being prepared to take risk, show leadership in adversity, having more audacity
Improv in the workplace – how The Maydays do it
The Maydays are the UK’s most well-known and successful improv troupe to also be engaged in frequent and sustained interventions into corporate training. They’ve been doing this for around a dozen years. This experience of so many different training situations, for so many different clients (you can see our client list above), with executives at such a high level, has no doubt honed our techniques. That said, the fundamentals of what we do remain fairly constant.
We make people feel good, we provide a safe route out of people’s comfort zones. We reduce fear levels around what were previously believed to be difficult or challenging situations. We develop delegates’ abilities to stay calm under pressure, make great choices where there’s more at risk, and not resort to knee-jerk, fight-or-flight decision making.
The improv training we deliver is embedded deeply because we change perspectives permanently. We provide delegates with a new life event, a new positive anchor of “The time I did improv training”, “The time I was successful in a situation out of my control”, “The time my colleagues thought I was awesome”. Alongside creating memorable moments of outright success, of peer approval and adulation, we get right into your work context, and this generates an overwhelming feeling of team success which is already applied to their work environment. How cool is that?
To top it all, because all of The Maydays are seasoned, regular improv performers, they inspire a totally different level of confidence. Your people can watch them improvise scenes or songs based entirely about you in a show format to round of a conference of colleagues or at an industry event, or for more of a challenge and an even more memorable event, your most audacious individuals can come up on stage in total safety and perform alongside The Maydays, who will simply make your people look amazing.
And the crowd will go wild.
Talk to us about you, L&D, and your organisational aspirations. We’ll create something memorable which will change your people’s perspectives for good and help you bring improv into your workplace.