Improvisation Skills will Save Your Business in the New Economy

8 years after taking my first improv class for fun, I realize how impactful it’s been for my personal life and business.

Improvisation for Business
Improvisation for Business

Many people think Improvisation is a few people getting on stage with an ‘anything goes’ kind of attitude, but that’s not true. There are rules to keep the rehearsals and shows running smoothly.

Here are three improvisation rules and how they can affect your business.

1) Be present. Improv is a balance between hyper-listening to your scene partner while feeling your own body for signals on how to respond. Without every single attention particle in the present moment, you’re screwed.

If you’re living in the past you’ll miss what wants to happen now. Being on stage, I’ve noticed how easy it is to let mind my wander back to the last interaction. Like mental masturbation, it relishes the last glowing moment or fantasizes how it could have played out better.

It’s a developed skill to let all that go.

The problem with lingering in the past is you miss the magic of what wants to happen right now. You’ll also miss the magic if you’re living in the future, thinking about what you want to say next or anticipating your partner’s advancement of the scene.

Same goes for business. Think about someone you bought from recently. If it was a face to face interaction, they probably had this skill nailed. Remember how you felt when the person was completely present with you.

The scripted sales conversations are so 1980s. You’ve got to be present with each individual and their specific needs if your businesses is going to succeed.

There’s a time for strategizing and creating a business plan, but too many of us get stuck in that mode when we’re interacting with people.  (You know… live human beings who want to participate rather be herded or thought of as just another consumer : )

Train your brain to stay present in each interaction.

2) Say yes. In Improv we practice saying yes to the offer our scene partner is giving us. If an actor races on stage and says “Wow, this hail is doing a number on my car” and the other actor says “Oh, it’s just a light rain, it will be ok” it blocks the scene and the other actor is stuck.

Improvisers learn to trust each other. They know that what they’ve said will be acknowledged. The other actor might have accepted with something like, “Yah, and there’s no place for cover here in this cornfield!”

The reason improv works is that in rehearsals, we agree to accept. That doesn’t mean we don’t move the scene forward with our own statements, but we do accept what’s been offered.

There’s enough negativity in the world. “Yah, buts” are common. But “Yes, and” is a skill. People enjoy it and if you watch carefully, you’ll see it in the funniest (and most well attended) improv shows.

Putting yourself in supportive environments, your genius can shine. In business, that might mean a mastermind group and/or tribes where you feel completely supported.

For a long time, I’d share my ideas with groups that weren’t a match and didn’t value what I had to share. Take it from me, resentment and burnout are sure to follow.

We need sacred spaces to shine. Make other people look good and you’ll end up looking good. Everybody wins. Competition fades away as nobody shows up for the old show. And, stage left, enters a world of cooperation and a higher vibe world.

3) Be honest. In theater you get immediate response with the audience’s applause or lack of applause. They feel it when you’re completely honest.

I’ve record our Tweaking Reality Improv Troupe performances and observe the connection with when I’m completely honest and the amount of applause. My head sometimes warns me not to say something because my precious ego would be damaged. But when I go ahead and say it anyway, I get the laughs. Not that I’m trying to get the laughs, I’m simply intending to be as honest as possible.

A ‘basketball’ prompt was thrown out to me once, my immediate impulse was to sing the old Cheech and Chong song with the high pitched “Basketball Jones…. I got a basketball Jones… I got a basketball baby oooh we oooh we oooh.” It surprised me how  liberating that felt. Plus it got laughs and we felt connected.

Another time, my mind was screaming at me not to make that funeral pun, but I did it anyway. Later an audience member told me how good it felt to laugh. It had been almost a year of seriousness about her husband’s death.

Like many people, I was taught to be polite and deny my feelings. To be present with myself and connected with others brings a kind of telepathic communication. It feels like a whole new world I’ve stepped into. A more sane world.

Applause in the Inprov world equates to profits in the business world. People want honesty.

It’s the new economy. Old structures are breaking down. Dishonest businesses are crumbling left and right. White collar professionals are doing time for their lack of integrity.

It isn’t just a matter of blatant business scams. It can be subtle. I have to constantly be honest with myself and ask if I’m truly enjoying what I’m doing. And if not, how can I be more fully myself and alive?

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