Lessons Learning from Improv

I’ve longed wanted to do improv. I’m now doing it and learning from it.

HeroesLast fall I finally began taking Improv classes. I say finally because for years that little voice we all have inside of us had been telling me to do it. Plus, since I’ve been evangelizing the merits of Improv in business … I felt it was time to practice what I preach.

After completing 18 weeks of improv comedy classes from the Austin-based Heroes of Comedy improv troupe, I’m set to graduate. For those living in the badlands of Central Texas, you’re invited to our Graduation Show at the Hideout Theatre on Tuesday, May 3 at 8:00 ($5).

I’ve learned a lot from the classes. But I still have much more to learn about the improv game in order to apply it to my every day business life. That’s why I’m calling the following … Lessons Learning from Improv.

Failure is an Option
In business we’ve been conditioned to believe failure is bad and most be avoided at all costs. Improv believes in the opposite. In Improv, I’m learning failure is good because it means you are challenging yourself to take chances in pursuit of living in the moment. Failure happens. Mistakes happen. Learn from failures. Learn from mistakes. If we don’t take chances and fail, how else will we ever feel the pleasure of learning?

Practice Passionate Followership
Not everyone can be a leader all the time. Yet in business I’ve been trained to lead or get out of the way. In Improv, I’m learning to be a passionate follower. There is an interdependence in Improv where no one person leads. Instead, everyone leads helping to make the best scene possible.

Don’t Act, React
I’m learning to become a better listener and thus a better reactor. Contrary to what you may think, Improv is not about acting … it’s about reacting. If you act in Improv, then you’re a hack. (If you act in business, you’re also a hack.)

Go with your Gut
So much in business is preplanned. We develop precise, step-by-step action plans accounting for contingencies along the way. At least that’s what big businesses do. On the other hand, small businesses mostly rely on their gut instincts to make decisions and to deal with consequences as they emerge. I’m learning to apply that same thinking in Improv where performers must make lightening-fast decisions based on who they are, where they are, and what they are doing.

Don’t be a Blockhead
We’ve all been in ideation sessions where we’re told to leave our yeah-buts at the door. What if we were to always leave our yeah-buts at the door and instead spend our time supporting ideas and not negating ideas? (Hmm…) I’m learning to do just that through Improv. It’s a difficult lesson for me to learn because my ego tells me I always have the better idea. However, I’m learning to discard my yeah-but negative thinking for the much more positive, trusting, and less ego-driven approach of thinking yes … and.

Trust Others
Deep down inside I don’t trust people as much as I should. Improv is teaching me to trust others more. In business and in Improv, trust is critical to making things happen. At work, you must trust others will deliver on time, on budget, and on strategy. And in Improv, you must trust other players will work together to make things happen in a scene.

Make Others Look Good
In business I was taught to look out for me, myself, and I. (Why else do I feel the need to have a CYA email file?) The ‘me, myself, and I’ attitude doesn’t fly in Improv. I’m learning you are more successful when you make others look good in Improv. It’s living the Vidal Sassoon philosophy of “If you don’t look good, I don’t look good.”