Creatively Corporate

Using Improvisation to Improve Your Creativity

Using Improvisation to Improve Your Creativity


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Being creative is about tapping into our imaginative side and producing something that’s uniquely ours. The more we can apply creativity to our communications – to give our audience something entertaining and uniquely different – the better chance we have of increasing engagement.

For communicators who are good writers, but don’t consider themselves particularly imaginative, producing creative content can be frustrating – after all, it’s hard to train our minds to think creatively when it doesn’t come naturally.

So how can you get your brain to operate more outside the box? Some people and companies are experimenting with techniques used by improvisational actors and comedians. You might have heard about organizations like Second City or The Groundlings – places where comedic actors are given suggestions on the spot and tasked to make a cohesive sketch from them.

How Improv Can Apply To Corporate Communication
Maybe you’ve been to an improv show during which the actors ask the audience to name a place, job, time of day, etc. and the actors create a spontaneous comedy sketch is developed right then and there. Somehow, some way, a performance is produced with often hilarious results.

But how can an acting exercise improvisation help communicators be more creative? An article featured on BigThink.com explains:

The most important rule in improvisation comedy is the idea of agreement, the notion that a scene flourishes when all the players accept anything that happens to them… The conscious mind has its strengths, but free flowing creative expression isn’t one of them. A lot of creativity is about relaxing your neurons so they can form new connections that deliberate thinking would otherwise block. It’s about turning off the analytical brain. 

In other words, overthinking can stifle creativity. If you’re stuck trying to think of an idea for a particular communication, it might serve you well to turn off your intellect and challenge yourself to think on the spot. As described above, it’s effective if you can work in a group and play off your ideas with one another.

The key is to not give yourself and your coworker enough time to get nervous; just jump right in and get the mind going. Improv exercises can include simple word games, communicating in visually or in gibberish, or using invisible objects. These activities help participants turn off their brains and simply react to the stimuli in front of them.

One website – LearnImprov.com – is designed to help solo performers create their own improvisational exercises. Another great resource to help you understand this approach is a TED Talk – The Way of Improvisation – given by improviser and storyteller Dave Morris, who teaches people seven steps to improvising and how they apply to life.

It’s Feels Crazy, But It Can Work
As someone who, as a child, aspired to be a comedic actor, I’ve been through a few improvisational exercises. While it might feel a bit foolish at first, it can definitely spark a lot of creative ideas you didn’t think you could produce so quickly.

Another article from Inc.com profiles Daena Giardella, who teaches an improvisational leadership class at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. The piece sums up perfectly how an acting exercise like this can benefit people constantly surrounded by a formal, structured corporate environment:

A workplace culture of “Yes, and” tends to be one where innovators feel comfortable, says Daena Giardella, who teaches an improvisational leadership class at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. “Innovation thrives in an atmosphere of safety and non-criticism,” she says. “Improvisation builds a muscle for trusting our own impulses and ideas, before we have to analyze how good they are, as well as helping develop an open-mindedness toward other people’s ideas.”

So what do you think? Could learning the ways of improv help you boost your creativity? Have you ever tried some kind of performance exercise to help you find your more imaginative side? Let me know about it in the Comment section below.

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