Company Uses Improv Tactics to Boost Business Creativity

Posted By Terri Williams on July 20, 2017 at 7:04 pm
Company Uses Improv Tactics to Boost Business Creativity

U.S. companies are on track to spend $100 billion – that’s with a “b” – for training in 2017, according to data from Deloitte’s Center for the Edge. But one training company takes a unique approach to the task. Four Day Weekend is an improv show that teaches companies how to embrace creativity and create an atmosphere in which employees are eager to contribute ideas.

Why is it necessary? Because some corporate leaders have become famous for shooting down suggestions from employees – to the extent that many workers have given up on proposing ideas and expressing creativity. However, Four Day Weekend teaches the concept of “Yes, and,” as a way to reverse this trend.

So, how does an improvisation show work?  “At Four Day Weekend, we create a new show every time we walk on stage,” Emily Zawisza explains. “We ask for words of inspiration or lines of dialogue from the audience, building scenes and even whole musical numbers around those ideas.”

A show might include an interactive game, a team-building workshop, or even a keynote speech. Performances are unscripted, with the one constant being the combination of education and entertainment. “All members of the troupe follow the basic improv philosophy, “Yes, and,” to line build and ultimately, as a team, create a hilarious show.” The concept behind the improv show is that companies learn not to use the word, “No.” Instead, they listen to ideas, and then build upon them, which creates a teamwork environment.

But, how does the infusion of comedy contribute to a more conducive learning environment? “You never hear that employees wish their training was a little more dry and humorless,” Zawisza says. “That is why we’ve found so much success at Four Day Weekend, by infusing comedy into the workplace as a tool for better learning.”

Four Day Weekend has worked with a variety of clients, including Southwest Airlines, USASBE, FedEx Office, the Democratic Caucus, Hyatt Corporation, and American Airlines.

“In our upcoming book, Happy Accidents, we call this our ROI (Return on Improvisation),” Zawisza says. “Other benefits include teambuilding, creating a shared experience with your employees, and more energy throughout a learning session.”

More conventional ways of stimulating creativity

Adding an element of fun to training sessions is one way to engage employees. However, companies still need to be committed to addressing other issues. According to Megan Maslanka, director of client success at Quantum Workplace, “Employees are disengaged because they don’t understand why an organization makes changes, they don’t see professional growth and career development opportunities, and, if they contribute to the organization’s success, they don’t feel they’ll be recognized.”

Maslanka recommends that companies examine the communication barriers that exist between companies and workers. “To start breaking down these barriers, company leaders need to bring employees in on strategic processes, discussions on tactical issues, and planning for the future.”

And, when workers get to see what’s happening behind the scenes, she says they’re more likely to understand the factors driving decisions and understand their role in the organization.

“Recognition also involves a lot of communication, but it has to be frequent and immediate,” Maslanka says. “Be specific and authentic with your praise so employees feel you’re genuine; this will motivate them to be more productive and excited about moving forward with their tasks.”

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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