So How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall?

My two Working Improv partners and I had a great time in the workshop we ran at PCMA’s Canadian Innovation Conference this past week. And how could we not? ­The creative group of professional meeting and conference planners in our workshop enthusiastically jumped into the exercises we put forward. They made new best friends, went on exotic adventures, discovered multiple uses for socks, and told stories like champions.

WP_20151124_08_29_23_ProFor those who could not join us, I thought I would summarize some of the lessons and questions that came out of the session.

Lesson #1: Creativity is Contagious

The keynote that preceded our workshop was given by Nancy Vonk and Janet Kestin the ladies behind the “Dove for Real Beauty” campaign. They talked about overcoming barriers to creativity. We picked up from there and facilitated a group discussion on when and how you can be more creative as well as where creativity may be found. An interesting point was raised concerning how often creativity shows up when you are away from the task at hand. It is why a brilliant idea hits you while you are in the shower, or meets you during a walk in the woods. Of course, we did have to acknowledge that a glass of wine does not hurt our creativity either!

A major realization from the workshop was just how much creativity can be tapped into when you really listen and build on each other’s ideas. You just need to trust that play is fuel for problem solving.

Lesson #2: Less Screen + More Interaction = Creativity

Working Improv: Kimberly Beaune, Shann McGrail, Nancy Watt and super star workshop guest Sabrina Butt

Working Improv: Kimberly Beaune, Shann McGrail, Nancy Watt and super star workshop guest Sabrina Butt

As we wrapped up the session, the group discussed observations and takeaways about using improvisation for play and creativity. One of our guests made a comment that I loved. The attendee noted that throughout the workshop, no one checked their phones—not even once. This was a 90-minute session. 90 minutes without phones and yet no one had a heart attack or developed an incurable nervous twitch.

It is worth noting that we did not, as facilitators are often apt to, explicitly set a “no devices” rule for the session at any point. Therein lies the lesson learned: when people are fully engaged and “in the zone”, they are not interested in digital distractions. Try setting that as a goal for your next meeting!

Lesson #3: Getting to Carnegie Hall

“How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice”

-Attributed to Jack Benny

My colleagues and I were asked this question: “This all seems so positive and you are so upbeat—do you ever have a bad day?” It would be awesome to have been able to answer with:

“Nope. Just remember say “yes!” be positive, and you will never have a bad day again”.

Unfortunately, that would be a big, fat lie. I tend to think about using the concepts of improvisation at work or home as a practice. It is similar to the approach to diet and exercise. We know we should eat right and keep our bodies moving every day, but it does not always happen that way.

Awareness is step one. Being conscious of the benefits of saying “yes” and being open minded will help one do it more often. Only then will one realize the difference between doing it and not doing it. Like anything, the more often you put a good habit in place, the more it becomes natural. Eventually, over time, you reach a point where you hardly have to think about it.

A big thank you to our workshop guests and to PCMA for inviting Working Improv to come play with such an engaging group!