Don’t just stand there, improvise!

Spring is almost here and we’re over three months into 2016. What are your goals for the year? Are you still on track to achieve them? This is a good time to check-in, re-evaluate and adjust your action plan to get the best results. This year I’m striving to become a better leader. While perusing the ‘books with the word boss in them’ section at Indigo, I stumbled upon Tina Fey’s Bossypants

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The comedian, Saturday Night Live writer, producer and actress is an inspiration and a leadership role model. I’ll spare you the tedious book review, barring one noteworthy section: The rules of improvisation that will change your life and reduce belly fat.

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Sadly improv won’t reduce belly fat, however it can boost your life. This book made me realize that some of my best ideas were the byproduct of fun, exploration and experimentation. If you want to generate more brilliant ideas, it’s worthwhile to look into improv training.

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A Forbes series profiling thought leaders that are changing the future of business further proves this theory. Paul Charney, co-founder and CEO of Funworks said in an interview that a comedian’s ability to think quickly, generate ideas and foster innovation is valuable trait that is missing from the business world. His company brings comedians and improv into the boardroom, saving time and money while generating ideas in a fun and collaborative way. Funworks’ roster of clients includes: HP, Virgin America, Clorox, Fox Studios, Pandora and Apple’s Nest so they must be doing something right.

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I recently spoke with comedian and co-owner of Brickworks Entertainment, David Andrew Brent to gain his perspective on the topic. With over 15 years of comedy experience, Brent wholeheartedly believes that everyone should take improv classes. Feeling non-committal? You can drop-in to a $15 class at Second City Toronto every Monday from 6:30-8:30 p.m. I’m really curious and want to try it so expect a review soon.

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What improv teaches you about life:

Listening:

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“Improv classes taught me to be present in the moment, pay attention and listen to others,” said Brent. When we listen to our social media followers, our customers, our colleagues or our partners we earn trust and build stronger relationships. This allows us to seize opportunities, address needs and take more risks. In a world oversaturated with noise, it is important to learn how to stop and listen.

Collaboration:

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Tina Fey’s first rule of improv is: always agree. Don’t be a push-over but be open-minded to the ideas of others, no matter how ludicrous. Whether or not it’s feasible, if you agree and listen, you show your respect for your partner and your team. Have you ever worked with someone that always says no? It kills collaboration and buries good ideas before they come to fruition. Don’t just say yes, but add an idea. Fey refers to this concept as “saying yes, and.” Adding to an existing suggestion and developing it further fosters idea generation through cooperation. Don’t be afraid to contribute, forget about what other people think and squash that fear of rejection.

Every mistake is an opportunity:

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Companies like Uber and Airbnb are shaking up the economy because they are wild, chaotic and experimental. They come up with disruptive, creative and worthwhile ideas that live outside the box. “Improv taught me that it’s OK to fail because lots of happy accidents come from failures,” said Brent.  “Improv teaches you not to get too attached to one idea, to see problems as opportunities with the flexibility to adapt,” he added. To succeed, you have to fail, often many times. When we cover up mistakes, self-edit and let our fear of rejection take control, we hinder the learning process. Brent believes that “crazy people with big ideas can change the world,” and I think he’s right.

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Are you ready to come up with a great idea? Go get creative and improvise! Still stuck in a creative rut? Watch this Ted Talk for more inspiration.  Most importantly, have fun!

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