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How improv can improve creativity and teamwork

by | May 13, 2019

Top companies are sending their staff to improv classes to improve their creativity, teamwork and leadership skills.

“Doing improv is like walking a tightrope. It’s impressive if you can walk it without a hitch, but audiences like to see you wobble.”

Liam Brennan is teaching us some valuable life lessons about the importance of listening properly, why creativity can only come from taking risks and why the greatest ideas evolve from saying yes to average ideas and building on them. He’s also teaching a class on improvisation.

It’s not just actors looking to broaden their CV who attend the courses, it’s now being used by young professionals to gain an edge at work. Google, Facebook, Apple, ITV, Accenture, Imperial College London and Comedy Central all have staff who have attended the workshops. Brennan says that there are now people in attendance at all his beginner workshops who are specifically going for help with confidence and creative thinking at work (this is our core area of expertise here at Now Go Create).

Brennan has been doing improvised theatre for 10 years, and he’s been teaching classes and courses in improv with Hoopla, the UK’s biggest improvisation training school for two.

Kate Diver, Head of People Operations at TransferWise took part in an improv course because she had just been promoted into a new role and wanted to get used to thinking on her feet and being more nimble in meetings.

“I have learned to trust myself and others more – and be OK with failure if it happens, as long as I learn from it,” she explains.

I felt a bit nervous about the class at first. The last time I played ‘zip, zap, zop’ or ‘throw the invisible ball’ was in drama classes as a teenager, and even then it felt a bit silly. But I needn’t have worried. Brennan leads the class with confidence, makes us all feel supported and tells us that everything we do and say is brilliant. It feels great.

Charlotte Hamill is the 28-year-old COO of Born Social, a social-media agency, took part in a workshop and found it improved her confidence and taught her to trust her gut at work.

We do another exercise called ‘Being Obvious’ where we build a tableau by jumping into the middle of the space and declaring that we are a mundane object; Liam starts as a whisk, then another person joins him as a bowl, then butter, flour, so on. For the next one, I start as a wardrobe and as people join we end up creating Narnia.

There’s a lesson in this one too: it’s not down to one individual to have the best idea ever in order to build something interesting, if you all contribute a little something, you still end up with a great result.

Many of Brennan’s clients start by trying a workshop or two and end up on one of Hoopla’s longer eight-week courses because they love doing it – and he has several anecdotes about people who quit careers in the city to retrain in improv. Kate Diver is one client who wants to keep going with the classes.

“I felt empowered and energised,” says Diver, “So much so that I took the next course level and did my first public performance in March 2018… mainly to friends and family in a room above a pub. But it’s a start!”

Now Go Create works with Liam, Max and the team at Hoopla Improv to deliver improv and thinking on your feet workshops for corporate clients. If you’re interested in trying Improv to improve collaboration as part of a programme to improve creativity please contact Lucy@nowgocreate.co.uk

This article was written by Emily Jupp and first appeared in the i Newspaper on 10th May 2019.

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