by: Jay Reid
“Play will be to the 21st century what work was to the last 300 years of industrial society — our dominant way of knowing, doing and creating value” - Pat Kane, The Play Ethic
Let’s stop asking the question do you work to live or live to work? That’s a bunch of BS — and by that I mean, bogus science. Play is practical. It’s not the opposite of work.(1)
When we come together in the spirit of play, we continue as more open, happy and productive people. This leads to personal fulfillment (living) and professional prosperity (working) (2). The concept of play is inherent to the world of theatrical improvisation or improv. I’ve watched improv positively transform too many people and organizations to ignore it.
Hold on, don't let the word "improv" scare you!
Have you ever tried improv? The most common answer I get when posing this is:
“Oh, me? I would be awful at that.”
As an improv teacher and forever-student, I used to wrestle people on this. Now, I choose to accept.
“Of course you’d be awful. You have never really practiced. If you had never touched a guitar and I asked you to perform the solo from Freebird, you’d be awful at that too.”
Improv takes mindful practice and so does playfulness. The beauty of improv is that it can applied to almost every situation, in business or otherwise. It’s not bound by a ball, a bat or a guitar. It is merely a framework of listening, connecting and responding that encourages trust, flexibility and productive collaboration.
Or in short, it teaches us how to work effectively and have fun while doing it.
Or, in shorter, it teaches us how to play.
“Many of the tools [of improv] are just common sense or ideas we learned but forgot along the way.”(3) Last summer had a student sign up for one of our Youth Improv Camps, thinking it was actually a leadership intensive called, 'Improve Camp’. They stayed all week. It’s all the same thing, really.
Bring some play to your work-day. Try these:
1. First Letter, Last Letter - Start every sentence you say with the last letter of the last word you hear.
2. Work of Art - Build a sculpture using only items from your workspace. Name it and email a photo to firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Name Game - For one minute, go around your workspace naming things that they are not (ie. point to a printer and call it a giant daffodil)
Want more? Come learn how you and your team can become more productive and happy by harnessing the tools improv theatre and applying them to the workplace at our next Improv For Business Intro Session.
1. Inspired by a quote from Brian Sutton-Smith
2. Inspired by Daniel Pink’s, A Whole New Mind
3. Improv For Business, Jill Bernard and Patrick Short