BY: BRAEDEN ETIENNE
Six months ago, I got a gif-filled email of joy stating I was the newest employee for The Making-Box! What a thrill!
I quickly learned this workplace isn’t like others. Not by a long shot. One of the job requirements here is learning to improvise. But I’ve already told that tale.
Admittedly, improv was never on my radar. I never had great ambitions for the comedy stage. I was no Colin Mochrie. About only half of my friends thought I was funny. But six months later, I’m still taking classes. Is it because I like wasting time? Are my employers secretly forcing these classes upon me? Perhaps I’m just bad at saying no?
Nope. It’s because improv teaches a lot more than on-the-spot comedy. I was surprised to find improv was the best training I’ve had to make me a better employee, entrepreneur and human being. Here’s some of the important off-stage business lessons improv taught me so far.
Collaboration is Better than Isolation
My past jobs looked like this:
Boss: Hey Braeden, can you please do Task X for me? Let’s have it done by date Y?
Braeden: Yes, sure thing boss!
Boss: Great Braeden, now enjoy staring blankly into your desk and computer as I go do the same.
Braeden: Yes, sure thing boss!
It’s not the worst way to spend your day, but it’s not the most ideal either. I’ve always been pretty good at just saying yes, but that’s not exactly what improvisers look for. Compare the above to an interaction at The Making-Box.
The Making-Box Team: Hey Braeden, can you please do Task X for us? Let’s have it done by date Y?
Braeden: Yes, sure thing friends!
The Making-Box Team: Yes Braeden, you’re so handsome and awesome! And… is there anyway we can help? Perhaps by taking care of thing Z?
Braeden: Yes … and I can also do extra thing Q to make it even better!
The Making-Box Team: Yes… and what if we also put in a little extra thing P?
Braeden: Oh, hell yes. I love thing P.
As you can see, the handy “Yes.. and” improv tool makes both the bosses (Jay, Tom and Hayley) and the employee (me) work together, creating a more collaborative environment where more awesome work is completed. The idea is to not just accept something, but to accept AND contribute.
“Yes.. and” is the secret sauce that turns isolation into collaboration. I’ve gone from lowly office grunt, to full-blown team player.
Adaptation is Better than Panicking
“Ahh yes… this start-up has gone exactly as we’ve imagined.” - No Start-Up Employee ever.
If you’re the type who expects everything to go according to plan, never ever start a business. The difference between time wasted and time-well spent in uncertain times lies in our ability to improvise.
For example, at that old job of mine:
Boss: Hey Braeden, happy Date Y! Have you finished thing X?
Braeden: Ooops sorry boss! Got carried away on thing P. I love thing P.
Boss: BRAEDEN! What are we going to do! We absolutely NEEDED thing X today!
Braeden: Oh geez whiz… I’ve really screwed this pooch. I guess this company is going down in flames.
While no company actually went down in flames on my watch, I’ve had co-workers who expected it to. On the improv stage, failure is not only welcome, it’s celebrated. If things go wrong, it’s not the end of the world, it’s viewed as an opportunity to create something new.
When I’m doing marketing for M-B, I need to know how to quickly change plans or come up with new strategies. Show’s not selling well? Let’s abandon the first plan and quickly come up with another. People need to understand more how improv can help them at work? Let’s write this blog about it.
While past Braeden may have panicked about things not going to plan, Improv-Braeden has learned adaptation is a much more effective use of energy.
Improvisers Listen, So Communication and Connection Are Easier
How many times has this happened at work?
Braeden: Hey Co-worker, you know what’s cool? I started taking MMA classes at my local gym. I’m excited to be getting punched in the face on the regular!
Co-Worker: You know I go to the gym too. I do spin classes and yoga.
Braeden: Ah yeah, clearly that’s what my excitement was about. How do you like those things?
Co Worker: ME ME MEME ME ME ME ME MEMEME ME ME ME.
A few days pass...
Braeden: Hey co-worker! I got kicked in the leg last night. It really hurt, but that’s what I signed up for! Lol
Same Co-worker: Are you okay? What were you in a street brawl or something?
Braeden: No, I was at my MMA class at my local gym.
Same Co-worker: Oh I didn’t know you took MMA classes. I do fitness classes too at my gym.
Braeden: Yoga and spin right?
Same Co-Worker: Yah that’s right! How’d you know?
When I told The M-B Team about my MMA classes, they started checking in weekly:.
M-B Team: Hey Braeden! Nice limp! You must have got punched pretty hard this week?
Braeden: Oh yes. It’s more painful every week.
M-B Team: But I guess that’s what you signed up for! Want to try CrossFit Together?
A key to improvising is listening. On stage, if you just wait for your turn to speak, and don’t take an interest in other people’s ideas, your scenes and characters will seem out of place. If collaboration is the name of the game, listening to and building upon other people’s ideas is more important than coming up with your own.
Rather than waiting for their turn to speak, most improvisers have the tools to add to what you were saying and grow the conversation. When you work with improvisers, you’ll be amazed to learn how much people actually care about your life!
Who You Work With, is Better Than What You Work On
I’m very fortunate to get to work with funny, amazing people at a well-loved and fun business in Guelph. And while being part of comedy shows and improv classes are huge perks, the biggest perk of the job is getting to work with improvisers.
The Making-Box practices what they preach. And for that reason, we’ve don’t have workplace drama, we get along, we have fun, all while getting to do really cool shit.
As you’ve read by now, you don’t need to be an improviser to learn the skills of collaboration, adaptability, or listening. ANY PERSON can learn these skills. If I can do it, you can do it. You’re just one improv class away.