At its core, Improv is a set of practices designed to enable practitioners to exist in a universe that is constantly in flux. It offers a way of being that requires mindfulness, self-awareness, self-confidence, cooperation, creativity, compersion, curiosity, optimism. That universe has traditionally been contained in a theater, a world constructed on “make-believe.” Applied Improv is the process that takes the “make-believe” by the hand and brings it into the real universe of our lives.
The realization of the relevance of my “make-believe” Improv Theater experience to my tangible life was profound and simple. The essential performance qualities that made the magic happen in the theater, a world without real-world consequences to actions, worked just as well where actions had consequences. I started seeing those qualities, which I recognized as presence, acceptance, and trust, strengthen in me. Those qualities resulted from specific tactics being practiced in service to one or more objectives.
Nurturing a ‘PAT” Mindset
Presence- A result of the improvisers’ need to live in this moment, to focus on what is. Because what’s happened is over and what’s ahead is unknown, the only place and time to exist, and to act is here and now. An improv tactic that builds “focus-ability” is known as the Point of Concentration (POC), which was developed by the improv pioneer Viola Spolin. It works like this:
Objective (Focus) > Tactic (POC) > Quality (Presence)
Acceptance- Improvisers can differentiate between acceptance and agreement. They may not agree with an audience suggestion for a story title or a team mate’s choice of words, yet they instantly accept it and move the game forward. It works like this:
Objective (Co-Creation) >Tactic (Yes..And ) > Quality (Acceptance)
Trust– Improvisers trust the process that is at the core of Improv. They let go of the need to control, or even know, the outcome and therein surrender to the journey that brings them to an outcome. Able to suspend judgment while allowing the process to unfold, improvisers remain open to unforeseen outcomes. It works like this:
Objective (Spontaneity) >Tactic (Suspend Judgement) > Quality (Trust)
The net result is that, for an improviser (and the folks that apply Improv practices to their lives), The process leads to higher levels of trust in self which leads to higher levels of Self-Confidence. They are then better able to respond quickly & effectively to unforeseen and/or startling situations; able to employ a mindful alertness to a wide range of available options and able to feel self-assured about their own capability while trusting in the capability of others.
Objective: To hold a relevant conversation using questions only.
Process: Players choose a topic about which to converse. Any player can start the conversation. Each player can come into the conversation at any time (just like a real conversation).
Goal is to see which player can maintain the “questions only” format the longest.Focus Point: Keep the topic in mind before forming a question.
Hint 2. Broaden the conversation instead of just responding to the lead-in comment. In the example above, the conversation broadened to personal feelings and the relationship of the players.Variations: 1. Keep score by assessing negative points to players who don’t conform to the format. 2. Continue until one player has made a mistake or an agreed upon number of mistakes before being ruled “out.”