International Talk Like a Pirate Day

Avast me hearties, it be talk like a pirate day. That bein’ the case, I’ll be posting a pirate pun this mornin’ Arrrgh!

It’s not often you see a pirate on the street in Topeka, Kansas. But this morning that’s just what I saw. He was dressed as piratey as he could be, right down to the peg leg and eye patch. The only incongruity was, in place of a hat, he had a paper towel. I also noted that his behavior was a bit strange. He kept looking behind him, and seemed, frankly, to be a bit paranoid. So I asked him what he was afraid of. “Arrrgh,” he said, “I’ve got a Bounty on me head.”

OK, enough of that. This blog is supposed to be about laugh2learn, and how  you can use improv concepts to improve the environment at work and, for that matter, at home. The main concept is “yes…and.” Based on the notion of accepting the offer from another and adding to it. The opposite is “yes…but,” which stifles creativity. When we work with employers, we usually do verbal and physical exercises to demonstrate the power of “yes…and,” but here is a powerful exercise you can do almost anytime anywhere, and you don’t even need to hire me to do it!

Find two or three partners and sit at a table with a single sheet of paper. Your goal is to create a drawing. If you want you can decide what kind of drawing you will create; face, landscape, animal, etc. Then without speaking further, one person makes a single mark on the paper and passes it to the next person who also makes a single mark. Continue passing the paper, each player adding a single mark until one person feels that the drawing is complete. Again without speaking that person writes a single letter on the paper. This is the beginning of the title of the work of art. Each person contributes a letter until the drawing is complete. Katt Koppett’s Training to Imagine has some wondeful examples

I have used this technique with people from sixth grade to adults. The quality and creativity of the resulting artwork never cease to amaze me.


Improv Q & A

I recently received an email from Paul Z Jackson, President of the Applied Improvisation Network. In it he sets out in Q & A format,a succinct description of what improv based training is all about. For your information, I’m reprinting it here:

Paul Z Jackson Interview

I was interviewed by a magazine journalist recently. Here are her questions, along with my (slightly edited) answers.

What’s the one key improv skill which could help anyone perform better at work?

The key improv skill is called ‘yes…and’, which means accepting and building. The accepting part depends on listening carefully so you are clear what’s being offered. Then – assuming you choose to accept (‘Yes’) – you build on that offer (‘And’), so that all the people in the conversation are constructing something useful together.

How does improv help you switch off the feeling of being self-conscious and help you access your creative self? What can you do to make this happen in everyday situations?

Improv helps you access your creativity by removing a lot of the fear of being wrong. You get more confident to have a go, and see your contribution as a low-risk experiment. A good tip for everyday is to listen for what you can agree with in what others are saying, and respond positively by building on those parts of the conversation. Conversation is turn-taking, and you can choose how to play your turns.

How is improv important in neutralising fear/anxiety? What tricks can you use to mimic that in a work situation?

Improv is not really about tricks or even removing feelings of self-consciousness. It’s about applying some of the on-stage skills used so brilliantly by performers in shows like ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway’ to everyday situations in which we interact with other people.

Thank  you Paul!