October 28, 2016
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Improv will make your work better

In order to do our best work, we study and practice our craft. However, we don't work in a vacuum, and being good at our craft isn't enough. Other skills like giving feedback, accepting criticism, and collaborating with others hold just as much influence. Unlike a craft, these skills can be difficult to practice and improve.

It may seem unrelated, but improv comedy requires precisely the same skills and is an exceptional way to hone them. In this form of comedy, performers improvise characters, dialog, and scenes on the spot, without any prepared material. Added bonus: it’s a tremendous amount of fun.

Performing improv means listening to your partner, accepting their ideas without judgement, building on those ideas, being present in the moment, building a safe and supportive environment, and trading fear for courage.

The next time you feel stuck in your career, consider taking a local improv class and sticking with it for a few months. You might just find your work improving while having a great time on stage.

Read About Improv: The Secret to Being A Better Tech Professional


Community Thoughts on Improv will make your work better...

  1. 1. It's Not Quite Funny or Die, But Improv Works to Fuel Innovation Kavanaugh confesses that she and other members of the executive team were “a little scared” to try improv as visions of having to perform like the cast of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” took hold. When the Ask team finally dove in [ . . . ] they discovered something totally different. “It was really transformative,” says Kavanaugh. “Folks said it was the most impactful training session in their entire career.”
  2. 2. So Funny, It Doesn't Hurt For some, the benefits can be even more significant: Researchers and clinical psychologists alike have begun to pay attention to improv, conducting studies or incorporate it into work with their patients. The improv stage, in theory, is a space free of judgement or fear of failure, making it an ideal environment for people who struggle with low self-esteem, social anxiety, or other types of anxiety disorders.
  3. 3. Four Big Lessons From Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey and Other Improv Masters Colbert is saying you’re not the most important one, because [ . . . ], “Everybody else is. And if they are the most important person in the scene, you will naturally pay attention to them and serve them.” The comedian quickly adds: “But the good news is you’re in the scene too. So hopefully to them you’re the most important person, and they will serve you. No one is leading. You’re all following the follower, serving the servant. You cannot win improv.”
  4. 4. What Great Listeners Actually Do While many of us have thought of being a good listener being like a sponge that accurately absorbs what the other person is saying, instead, what these findings show is that good listeners are like trampolines. They are someone you can bounce ideas off of—and rather than absorbing your ideas and energy, they amplify, energize, and clarify your thinking. They make you feel better not merely passively absorbing, but by actively supporting.
  5. 5. You're Not The One: How I (Sort Of) Learned to Stop Trying to be "Good" All The Time Personally, I know that my drive to be the “big picture guy” comes from the desire to be “good.” To make the right moves in a show. But that instinct can be more shortsighted than helpful. I end up trying to dominate the show, exert my will, force an architecture that would happen on its own. It prevents me from being totally present in scenes. It inhibits my ability to listen and react, to walk on stage and discover something with my scene partner.

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