What Happens Next?

What Happens Next?

Written by Ade

Just before heading off on my travels, I attended a weekend improvisation workshop in London with The Spontaneity Shop. I was a big fan of the TV show ‘Whose line is it anyway?’ and had been fascinated with how the performers were always able to respond with such presence to whatever scenario was presented to them – no matter how awkward.

In signing up for the workshop, I had felt that a number of the skills utilized in improvisation could easily be transferred to not just my work as a Coach and Consultant, but all aspects of my life – I was not wrong. There were a number of themes that emerged during the weekend; three in particular have stayed with me.

The first theme was highlighted within the first few minutes of commencing the workshop and that was, “It’s okay to fail”. The emphasis here was on the fact that improvisation was not about being perfect or getting it right. We were encouraged to have fun and focus on having lots of goes – it was the quantity that mattered, not the quality. What this theme generated was an expansive platform for us to have fun and be creative. In fact, what came to light was that the more we ‘failed’, the more fun we had – this certainly goes against what many of us were taught growing up!

The second theme was on the subject of collaboration. Every response made by an improviser was defined as an offer and each one of us was encouraged to accept the offering with a “Yes and ……”. This meant that participants were encouraged to go with the flow of each scenario presented, whilst building on the last idea; rather than blocking it and thereby killing the emerging scene. As part of the process we were shown that “our job was to inspire our partner’s imagination, rather than to have good ideas ourselves”.  Again, not a behavior often taught or demonstrated in the world of work, where we learn to critic what comes our way with a “Yes, but …”.

The third theme was on “Responding in the moment”.  Another way of interpreting this would be to say ‘being present” - very Zen. This meant that during all the activities we did over that weekend there was no room for planning what came next. Any attempt to do so, disrupted the flow of the emerging scene, thereby becoming a “Yes, but…”. This theme, like the others, is certainly one that could be applied to everyday moments. For example, it means when having a conversation with a friend or colleague that we are actively listening and responding to what is being said, rather than planning what to say next. This theme is also one that is applied consistently in coaching situations, where the intention of the coach is to be completely present for the client, so as to be able to respond consciously to whatever emerges from the ongoing dialogue.

In reflecting on these three themes and improvisation in general, I am conscious that we are all invited to improvise on a daily basis in our various encounters with the people we are interacting with. When faced with those encounters, what happens next and how we apply any of the highlighted themes is down to each one of us.

How are you choosing to respond?

Categorised Under: General Interest, Fun,


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