Have you heard the one about the company that hired a social media strategist to teach their employees how to perform improv comedy, with the expectation it would improve office communication skills and improve employee retention?
Probably not, because it hasn't happened yet. But networking guru and public speaker Dave Delaney is hoping that will change.
Delaney, who runs a consulting practice called Futureforth, is launching Communication Reboot, a new service aimed at teaching improvisation to businesses.
Many business leaders may wonder why they'd want their employees learning how to crack jokes on the fly and goof off. But Delaney, who graduated from Second City Toronto's improv course and still performs with the Nashville Improv Company, said he knows firsthand how improv can help a company.
"I know what it's like to work in an office and how mundane it can be," said Delaney, who also teaches improv to non-corporate clients. "I also know how valuable the lessons learned in improv can be to anyone, but especially to teams and businesses."
With that in mind, Delaney shared three ways improv can benefit your organization.
3 Ways Improv Can Benefit Your Organization
1. Improved listening skills and acceptance — Delaney said improv teaches you how to be silent and truly hear people. He said the fundamental rule of improv is, "Yes, and...," and he incorporates exercises into his training that emphasizes that principal. In one drill participants must listen to their scene partner to know what to do next and always begin their reply with, "Yes, and..."
"It's the idea that, 'Yes, I accept what you are saying and I am going to build on it,'" Delaney said. "If we are doing a scene as two plumbers working on a toilet and I say, 'Hey pass me that wrench,' and you say, 'It's not a wrench, it's a hammer,' then the scene doesn't flow. But if instead you replied, 'Yes, and here are some pliers,' then we have an idea to build on."
Delaney said this not only teaches people to listen, it teaches them to be open-minded. People become more accepting of other people's ideas and learn to build on them rather than automatically dismissing them. When teaching improv, Delaney also has students participate in a drill called, "Yes, but..." to demonstrate how much more difficult it is when you start from a place of contradiction.
2. Overcoming fear — Delaney said improv puts people in vulnerable situations and teaches them to think on their feet. Most people have a crushing fear of public speaking, he said, and improv gives people the confidence that they can handle stressful circumstances in front of a crowd.
Delaney said he was once giving a presentation to a health care company in front of 200 executives in a room and 20,000 employees streaming it online. He said instead of using his own equipment he used the company's. Shortly into the presentation, he was impressed that everyone knew the answers to the questions he was asking the crowd.
"I like to use slides and visual aids. I asked the crowd how many people they thought were on LinkedIn and every single hand went up. I turned around and the slides were advancing on a timer instead of with my clicker," Delaney said. "Under those circumstances some people would jump off the stage screaming and crying but I really tapped into the improv skills that I have learned and was able to push through."
He said it also teaches people to share ideas with colleagues and management without fear of rejection.
3. Employee retention — Delaney said businesses today, especially technology companies, are becoming more aware of the importance of culture. He said there is a talent gap in Nashville's tech industry and programs like Communication Reboot can help with employee retention by improving morale and team building.
Delaney said he tailors the course to the company and the department he is teaching and that pricing is determined by the size of the group. He said he is offering the improv training in Nashville and throughout the Southeast.
"Improv is a great way to improve company morale and educate people on communication," Delaney said. "And it's fun. It's a fun way to spend a half of a day with your coworkers."
Reprinted from the Nashville Business Journal by Joel Stinnett - October 19, 2017.