I spent last Thursday doing a teambuilding workshop using Improv. I’m still buzzing from it. Improv Rocks!
Something very powerful happens to people when they engage in Improv activities. The level of energy and engagement among participants goes up and their focus and sense of being “in the moment” with it. Last week I focussed on a few simple, on one level trivial games. For instance, I got people to stand in a circle and throw an imaginary ball from one to another. They had to make a noise when throwing the ball. When catching it, you had to repeat the noise of the thrower before making your own noise as you threw it on.
Pretty silly, pointless game, eh? Yet when you play it, people become very involved and focussed – as well as prompting frequent bouts of laughter at the strange noises, or delight when mistakes are made. Typically, the pace of the game accelerates as the group becomes more experienced, so in one session I threw in a second ball to raise the stakes.
So this game commands attention and engagement almost unheard of in your average business meeting… but this is a silly game, whereas business meetings are about important things that affect our whole lives, aren’t they? What is going on here, people?!
That’s a rhetorical question (you spotted that, didn’t you?). And I think what’s going on is that people are freed to do what they want to do at a most basic human level: to engage with each other, to pass things to and fro, and form a coherent group. Set up a simple exercise which offers folks a way to raise the level of challenge as they learn, and they get together and they get… high. I often think that many of the clumsy things organisations do to build teams ~ long statements of goals, values, procedures ~ just get in the way of something that comes naturally to people anyway.
I love using Improv because I always get surprised myself, usually delightfully. There were many of those moments last week, but here’s my favourite. At one point, after we’d done a lot of exercises involving talking, I decided to run a long session where all engagement was non verbal: a session of movement work done silently (well, apart from fairly frequent laughter). And at the end of this, a participant commented, very matter-of-factly, that she’d got to know her colleagues better during that session.
Isn’t that great! Here’s a group of people, with serious jobs to do, getting to know each other without talking. How often do we think that the only way we get to know people is by reading the CVs or engaging them in an interview or something?
I’ll say it again. Improv Rocks.