by Avish Parashar
Improv comedy is a form of theater where a group of performers take the stage with nothing prepared in advance and use audience suggestions to instantly create comedy. If you’ve ever seen the TV show, “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” you’ve seen improv comedy. Improv is fast, funny, and quite often ridiculous.
The first reaction people have to hearing about improv comedy being applies to business is, “Come on now, business is serious. How can improv comedy apply to that?”
Well, the answer is quite simple. The key to successful improv is the willingness to take risks, the understanding of how to tap into your own creative resources, and the ability to listen to and work well with other people. Show me a person in business that wouldn’t benefit from having the willingness to take risks, the ability to tap into their creativity, and the skill to listen and work with others.
An improviser must constantly take risks. The primary risk is stepping on stage with nothing prepared and trying to create something entertaining. Without embracing this risk, the improviser does nothing. In a similar fashion, a person in today’s work force must push forward and try new ideas and methods. Without risk, there is no progress or innovation. Businesses that want to stay competitive require their people to keep pushing forward with new ideas. This can never be accomplished if people are not willing to take risks.
Creativity is often misconstrued as “artistic”. In improv, it is clear that the performer needs to be creative. An improviser needs to generate interesting ideas immediately, without a moment’s hesitation. While most artistic people are creative, creativity is about much more than art. Creativity is simply the ability to create. It is the ability to come up with something from nothing. It is the ability to create new ideas. These new ideas could be solutions to problems, innovative products, or new ways of handling clients. Just because artists are creative doesn’t mean that other people can’t benefit from creativity.
Unlike stand-up comedy, where the performer is alone, improv requires cooperation between two or more players. When one performer ignores his partners and does not involve them at all, he creates a disharmonious environment that tears at the group. The best improv happens when everyone is involved and there is a free flow of ideas that are supported and built upon by everyone. This attitude is the heart of communication. Whether talking to a co-worker, client, friend, or family member, the ability to openly and honestly listen to another person and incorporate their ideas is the key to building strong relationships.
The keys to effective improvisation are the same as the keys to success in just about any other area of life. It really should not be that surprising though; life, after all, is the ultimate improvisation.
Avish Parashar is a speaker and trainer who uses the principles of improvisational comedy to run seminars on productivity, leadership, teamwork, creativity, and communication. www.avishparashar.com