Designed for anyone interested in changing things for the better, and who want to boost their confidence, creativity, and delight about doing so, this was an interactive 2.5-hour workshop by U.K.-based applied improv coach Belina Raffy.

This workshop covers:

  • What Applied Improv is
  • Useful mindsets for the ‘inner game’ of creating change
  • Practicing the art of engaging others to create better solutions than you could have imaged
  • Deep listening, acting on your intuition, and short turn taking as a way to navigate complex systems.

Applied Improv

Applied improv is the application of concepts, ideas, and techniques from the world of improvisation into non-theatrical fields e.g. business, consulting, facilitating, etc.

Many exercises, activities and games use in applied improvisation are designed to encourage risk taking, playfulness, team building and to be in the moment. In this way, participants could challenge their existing mindset, develop their creative potential and overtime increase their confidence while having fun.

The core practice of improvisation was described by Robert Poynton’s “Everything’s an Offer”:

  • to let go (mindset or practices that not serving us at the moment),
  • notice more (well being, others, and resources that we have)
  • and use everything that comes…
  • all done using “Yes, And” attitude in the service of change.

She designed this workshop for changemakers based following topics:

  • Useful mindsets for the ‘inner game’ of creating change
  • Practicing the art of engaging others to create better solutions
  • Deep listening, acting on intuition, and using short turn taking as a way to navigate complex adaptive systems.

Improv Exercises played

Creating inner game of change

  • 1-2-3: Count alternately in pairs - first verbally then use claps, gesture or movement with your partner. Players learn to focus on the interaction and present moment, take care of their partner, letting go of control, play and co-create with rhythm, speed, loudness. The game is also about embracing change and failures more freely together, apply it as inner game for creating change
  • What I like about your idea… and we could …: Open up, bring new ideas to do things together. Try to find / embrace specific part of the idea (instead of being general). The exercise puts the person into centre of the frame and makes it personal, by focusing on ‘Your’ rather than ‘The’ idea.
  • Evil Cafe brainstorming: Discuss craziest cafe experience for its visitors, from ‘evil’ to ‘good’ and eventually extraordinary / ‘amazing’ ideas. The exercise shows how to takes pressure out of by getting off the negative things so that goodness can come out. It is about having inner mindset change when stuck doing something new by aiming for average rather than perfection first. It also shows that we often stop at good and miss amazing stuffs that are actually quite achievable.

Engaging others to create better solutions

  • Whish, Whoosh, Sound Ball and Word Associations: Minimize pre-planning and work with whatever coming in the group.
  • Fox in the attic: Create a story based on prescribed topic with a partner one word at a time. Participants learn how to step back, shift the focus from self into what is most in service for the story, especially when the other partner give something that is unexpected.
  • That is so wise!: In small group, make a statement starting with “Always / Never ….” one word at a time, and when to end it together. This exercise demonstrates profound wisdom could emerge in group. Participants learn to seek simplicity, welcome ideas and provide cues of affirmation.
  • Once upon a time … and because of that …: Add an adventure story piece by piece - one thing lead to another. This exercise invites everyone to co-create story and be on the same page: contribute and mix pieces in logical way and connect with what unfolded. Sometimes plan become obsolete and we need recover from change we don’t expect.

Navigating complex adaptive system

  • Horse and Tiger: Participant silently pick other group members as ‘horse’ and ‘tiger’ then act selfish (and move away) or benevolent (and move in between). This exercise helps participants experience dynamic of complex adaptive system, where a small rule change would have big impact to group behavior.
  • [Three] people walking: As a group, only X number people are allowed to walk around at any one time. This exercise demonstrate coordination without communication, relying on observation, trust and initiatives.
  • Singing in circle: Volunteer to sing within group circle, trust that others will offer replace them anytime he/she become uncomfortable. The exercise explore Bernie dekoven model of alienation, conformity and coliberation as experience of mutual transcendence.
  • Diamond shape dance: 3 participants follow dance movement of the point person in the direction they’re facing. After 15 seconds, everyone jump clockwise and follow new leader. Leaders learn how to connect with followers they can’t see; think from their perspective; make it easy to follow through logical, continuous and deliberate movement. The exercise also demonstrate that play does happen when members are building upon each others and everyone have moment of leadership.

Reference: Maffick