Why leading businesses are turning to Improv for Professional Development

A man in a suit pointing at an audience while talking

Improv for professional development is becoming an indispensible tool for business trying to adapt to the fast changing environment we find ourselves in.  Increasingly companies are embracing the power of improvisation to improve their wellbeing, agility, communication and connection within a business and with clients.  Improvisation is already a deal-breaking skill and most of the highest performing individuals and teams already display high levels of improvisational skill in their conversations and behaviours.  It is these skills that we all possess and use already that Improv for Professional Development really focusses on honing and improving.

As far back as 2014 Improv was already creating a stir in the business world with Forbes magazine publishing articles on Improv and it’s effectiveness in training and development.  We at The Maydays have been using the techniques learned on stage and in workshops to help businesses and individuals for over a decade now.  Here are some of the specific benefits we have found that Improv for Professional Development can bring to you.

Improv skills for teams

While working with GSK’s high performing teams we devised a format for a 90 minute Improv session that really focussed on trust, listening and communication.  We demonstrated some life Improv on stage using stories from the participants and then encouraged people to come up and try some of the techniques we had just demonstrated.  We use the phrase ‘Yes and’ to allow for conversations to build and ideas to be generated within a team, and a few exercises using this technique really made people think about the type of person they usually are and some simple ways to change their responses in certain situations.  Even CEO’s who had been in business their whole life found that there was some extremely valuable learning in practising our communication with people.  Improv for Professional Development allows you to experience a range of different situations and actually practise and train your responses to fit.

Four people on a stage performing to a crowd

Improv skills for leadership

Of course sometimes we need to take the helm and lead people.  However the skill of listening and adapting our leadership style is often overlooked.  Here is a great article on why listening is such an important aspect of being a leader.  Again what Improv training can bring is the chance to observe our own listening skills and strengthen them in different situations.  While working with the new intake of Graduates at IBM we were amazed that so many future leaders were still unaware that they were poor listeners.  Improv can also bring laughter and deeper connections and while 500 people were enjoying some seemingly funny interactions, they appreciated afterwards the learning that had taken place.  Having them listen deeply to a one minute version of someone’s life story and then repeat it back was just one of the techniques we used to demonstrate the power of listening.

There has never been a better time for Improv Training

WIth increasing number of online meetings, both in house and with clients, it has become even harder to use our instinctive soft skills, non verbal communication and intuition.  Improv training swiftly adapted as you would hope it would!  Now there is online Improv training that can really target how we communicate online and how to increase our focus and also the focus of people we are talking with.  Online improv for Professional Development can break down the awkwardness of being online and prepare people to be receptive and attentive to the group.  We spent an intense few weeks developing our online Improv Training formats in early 2020 and have been part of many online conferences, meetings and workshops bringing the power of Improvisation to people all over the world.  What we have noticed is that Improv can really hold people’s attention.  There is no need for note taking or any previous skills required, it is simply about being in the moment, listening and responding to people.  The limitations of being online, poor microphones and lag can actually enhance the learning by encouraging people to remaing calm, receptive while being adaptive and agile.

Improv training can bring your team back together

Improv for Professional Development strengthens bonds between peoplle tha may have become strained over the last few years.  We have been involved with facilitating the physical meeting of a team who have not met in real life for 2 years.  Improv is the ice breaker without the embarrasment.  And once the ice has been broken and the laughter and connections start to ripplle around the room, Improv Training can lead to profound revelations about ourselves and about our colleagues and leave us with memorable interactions that will form the basis of new and stronger relationships