Collaboration insights gained through improv training with Dave Morris

Since early March I’ve been attending a basic improvisation class, led by Dave Morris, here in Victoria.  It just wrapped up.  I’ve spent a lot of my life relying on my left brain.  Spending 2 hours a week with 15 others, largely in right brain mode, was something I figured I could handle!  Plus, intuitively I sensed it had some lessons for me, in the collaboration arena.  I was right.

Dave knows improv, and he knows how to impart its essence to others.  Meet Dave, via his informative, and entertaining, TEDx talk, “The Way of Improvisation”:  (Note: It was after watching this talk, that I signed up for one of his classes.  Just saying.) …

(video not displaying? watch here, on YouTube)

Here’s five of my takeaways from the class:

  1. Improv is a way to discover the true you:  Improv training is a way to bring out the “true” you.  When forced to act in the moment, your most visceral moments of your life lived, so far, tend to get pulled out.  What surfaces first from your memory bank tends to be what influenced you, and stuck with you, over time.  Self-reflecting on those moments can reveal more of yourself, and your  interactions with  others.
  2. Accept the offer, completely: In improv, when someone makes an offer, it’s important to accept it before loading them with your two cents.  “Yes, and…” is of course a well known way to do this, though acceptance can be so much more than words.  What non-verbal way are you communicating acceptance?   Something to consider in any collaborative team and/or when mediating issues.
  3. Fail, fail, fail: Dave taught skills through activities.  Each activity starts simple, then another element added, then another… and before you know it, you’re having to take action in a very messy world.  Basically, chaos.  So real.   Learning a skill involves a lot of fail, fail, fail… and laughter.    A sense of play.  More  serious training should take this approach.  Hey, this is how innovation happens, too.
  4. Structure matters: Of course, improv works because it has structure, too!  Huh?  Improv scenes work best when built along a common ‘story’ format e.g.,: 1) establish a setting 2) the characters 3) offer a challenge 4) up the ante 5)  find resolution.  Improv within structure. This is why mediators can learn from jazz.
  5. Body/mind connection: Big motions with the body, movement, along with the words, helps ingrain the learning.  I know there are some implications here for collaborative contexts… “okay, now… let’s everybody stand up, shake it out, and try this…”.  Workplace eurythmics anyone?

If you’re in the Victoria area, and you or your organization are wanting to learn a bit of improv, I recommend Dave.   He knows his stuff inside out, and is a joyous person to be around.   Looking for a good book on improv?  My favourite is Patricia Ryan Madson’s “Improv Wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up”… which is exactly what I did. 🙂

And you… ever taken some improv training?  What did you get out of it, and how did you apply it to your world?

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