A lot of people think of improv as funny. But the funny thing is: that’s not what improv is about at all. Sure, improvisation lends itself to comedy, but in fact improv was first formally used to train actors and to help develop scene ideas for theatre. You might even say improv is the ultimate creativity tool.
These days improv is used in classrooms as an educational tool and in businesses as a way to develop communication skills, creative problem solving, and team development.
So how does Improv improve your creativity muscles? Here are five (of many) ways:
1. Improv is about being there. Fully there. In other words, it’s about paying attention, which is fundamental to creative thinking. You need to see what’s going on if you want to change it effectively.
2. Improv is also about deferring judgment. No improv actor could perform well if they let themselves worry about how clever or how funny they were. In fact, that’s the surest way to suck at improv. Same for creative thinking. You need to take risks. You have to have the courage to fail.
3. Improv is one of the highest forms of teamwork. You simply can’t do it alone. We also know that creative teams can produce more and often better ideas than creative individuals. Learning to trust and build on the work of your team is essential — in both improv and creativity.
4. One of the fundamental skills in improv is the ability to make connections: between an elephant and a deadline, a lost button and an opportunity, or a chicken and a space launch. Same with creativity. One of the best known creativity tools is Forced Connections: as Heraclitus wrote, “The unexpected connection is more powerful than one that is obvious.”
5. And finally, you’ve heard of “Yes, and” — the mantra of creative thinking? It comes from improv.
Every aspiring creative thinker needs to take one improv program at least once, After that you’ll be hooked.
This year at Mindcamp we’re lucky to have one of North America’s great improv teachers as one of our presenters. She’s Kate Ashby, who’s worked and trained others for over 15 years at Second City. You might want to make a connection.