[VIDEO] Use Improv to Help Work from Home

OK, there’s no way to sugarcoat this, guys. The world is going through some pretty crazy stuff right now. Turn on the TV, pick up a newspaper, scroll through your Facebook timeline…. wherever you look, wherever any sliver of information can reach your eyeballs – you’ll only notice panic and anxiety.  Now, we’re not saying all this panic is totally unwarranted. We should be cautious. We should be taking precautions. We *must* be practising self isolation from colleagues. And you probably are doing all those things. But, how does one keep themselves motivated during all of this? How do you stay creative when everything seems so….. static? How does one retain any inspiration they might have had before this sh*t hit the fan? Here’s one thing you can try: improv!

What Exactly Is Improv?

Improv is the art or act of creating anything without previous preparation. This forces you to think on your feet, listen, share your stories, and be in the moment.

If you happen to work in the corporate sector, you’ve probably heard the term improv before, if not, perhaps you’ve heard of “Yes, And”. Increasingly, professionals in all industries are trying improv and discovering it to be helpful in nurturing creativity, promoting entrepreneurship, and building leadership skills. 

So, what exactly does improv involve? How does it help? How can it make your self-isolation phase so much more productive? Let’s explore all of that in detail. 

Improvisation-based training, is an unconventional yet effective way to develop core business skills. It can help nurture many things within a team or an individual: communication, creativity, trust, leadership, innovation, mindfulness and even emotional intelligence (EQ). 

Whatever your purpose and expected outcome is – the underlying rule of improv is to create a moment for everyone in the room – whereby every single person is listening with a heightened state of awareness, and ideally experimenting with their thought patterns. This isn’t like a sermon or “motivational speeches” kind of a thing where everyone just snoozes through a boring activity. It’s interactive, it’s uplifting, and it’s highly entertaining!  

What Does Improv Involve?

Improv involves creating a collaborative space that’s not afraid to experiment and even look silly at times. You’ll be made to do quick-paced experiential activities that transport you out of your fixed thought patterns, preconceptions and comfort zone. The longer your improv session lasts, the more profound the long-term effects will be.

How Does Improv Help When Working From Home?

When it comes to working from home – improv can just be an energizer that warms people up and makes them more attentive to whatever is being said. It can also be used to make people collaborate with each other and break the (virtual) ice so everyone begins to feel in their element. The ultimate outcome: a more productive, energetic team (even if it’s just the WiFi connecting the team together!).

How Do You Keep Yourself Motivated Using Improv While Working From Home?

You’re looking at your laptop screen, scrolling down a flood of emails now that all communication is virtual. You’re struggling to find the fun in your work. It feels impossible to stay motivated through self isolation. Improv can help with that! 

This is because improv exercises take you out of your mechanical work routine (there’s only so much screen-gazing you can handle!). With improv, you’re visualizing yourself in different situations, putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, and approaching work from a different angle. All of this can help break the monotony that’s killing your motivation. And it might even inspire some new ideas! 

How Does Improv Apply To Working From Home?

We’re all stuck at home, unable to interact with other people, and won’t be in a group setting for quite some time. Does that mean we can’t engage in improv anymore? Luckily, no! You can reap equally fulfilling benefits from doing improv at home – whether it’s a solo improv exercise or a virtual team activity (we’ll cover that part later). 

If you’re looking to do improv from home – there’s a whole bunch of exercises to do: Constant Association, Constant Characters, Constant Narratives, and a lot more

All of these improv exercises at home have one theme in common – they require you to flex your creative muscles, think outside the box, and often put you outside your comfort zone.

 What’s more, they’ll also teach you to be more self aware about your train of thought. What are some patterns in your thinking that you hadn’t noticed before? Have those patterns manifested themselves in the way you approach your work? Is there a way to tune your patterns and leverage them in your business decisions? Let improv at home help you figure all that out!

How Do You Effectively Work As A Team (Using Improv) When Everyone Is Virtual?

Like most people, you might be under the impression that improv requires to be under the same roof as a whole bunch of other people. Sure, that’s a great way to do it, but it’s not the only approach we can take. Video conferencing is what’s running the world right now. Why not use it for something other than those monotonous work meetings?! The goal with improv is primarily to make people listen and communicate. You don’t have to be physically close to do that. Fact is, there’s a range of group improv exercises that can be done virtually!

Solo Improv Exercises: Monologues

Find an object.

Find an object in your house. Once you find your object, start giving a monologue about the object.  The object should mean something to you in the monologue, even if it’s the inside of a toilet paper roll and doesn’t in reality, this is where we pretend. Once you’ve chosen that object, tell a story about it. Show us how you feel!

Pick two words.

Pick two random words, these words can be found from your surrounding or they can be the first few words that pop into your head. For example, the two words can be “TV” and “chair”. Now, with your words in hand, tell a story about the fascinating, and absurd thing, that those two words combined are about. For example, for TV and chair, it could be the latest product, the TV chair! You know, it’s a TV screen flexible enough to sit on it!

Build a character.

Think about somebody in your life, either past or present. Remember their mannerisms, how they talk, the way they act.  Now, take a shot giving a monologue as that person, saying things they would say, their world views, and outlook on their current situation in life. We are building characters not caricatures of these people so keep it as grounded as you can.

Group Improv Exercises for Video Conferencing

Questions. (Best for 2 people.)

Two participants will be strengthening their skills for thinking on their feet and maintaining a train of thought. One person starts by asking the other individual a question. The other individual must then respond in the form of a question. This repeats so on and so forth until one individual messes up and makes a statement. After the first round, dust yourself off and go for another round!

Problem/Solution. (Best for 2 people.)

Problem/solution is a conversation between two people where participants fill in the following gaps:

Player A: “I have a problem:_______ (describe problem)”

Player B: “Here, I have a _________(a completely random object)”

Player A: “Great! I can then (do something with the object) to __________ (come up with a solution). Thank you!”

Answers can be funny and random, but the point is for participants to be supportive and thankful of one another.

Books! (Best for groups.)

Books! focuses on building new book titles that have never existed before and will never exist again.  The trick is, we’re building these book titles one word at a time. To start. One individual will say a word and put their arm out. The next person will go and say a word and put their arm out. This will go on until the group collectively believe they finished the title of a book. The titles don’t have to be long and the words don’t have to make sense. Once a title is finished, everyone will throw their arms into the air and yell BOOKS. This is now the time to start the exercise all over again.  Books! helps your team members think on  their feet while Yes, Anding each other. This exercise can easily be done over webcam, and if anything, helps individuals remain hyper aware of what others are doing in the video conference.

One-word story. (Best for groups.)

Players practice building a story together one word at a time. To start, one player will give a suggestion of a story title that has never existed before. Once the group receives their suggestion, one-by-one the group will build the story by saying one word at a time. When the story gets to a certain point, make sure to end sentences by saying ‘period’. Coach the team to not hesitate, to avoid saying words such as “um” for too long before answering, and to keep a nice steady pace so your team isn’t talking over each other.

In conclusion

As part of your virtual team meetings – you can do improv group warmup in order to wake everyone up and perhaps lengthen their attention span. To make your team work effectively, you can choose exercises that require all the members to work together to solve a problem. All they might need is a pen and paper, and communication with each other via video conferencing. Make them visualize difficult situations, unforeseeable circumstances, new obstacles they haven’t faced before….. anything that stretches their improv muscles!

So, no matter how small or large your virtual meeting is – you can incorporate several improv games that will get the participants smiling, connecting, bonding and having fun. All of this will help keep the team morale up, make everyone more attentive, and ideally raise the level of creativity and innovation that the participants bring to their work afterwards. And yeah, they probably won’t be snoozing through the video conference if they actually have something fun to look forward to. Win-win, we say!