I grew up looking at this sign often and I never realized how funny it is. It was just some thing that was always there. Street Rd. Nothing special about it, nothing funny about it, it was just the name of the road. This is a Road named Street. Street Road.
It wasn’t until I took my wife to visit the area where I grew up and she looked at it and said “Street Road. That’s funny“. Suddenly, I saw the name in a new light. Why would you name a road Street Road?
Sometimes you overlook things that are right in front of you, because they blend into the everyday surroundings. This is why it never seemed funny to me that near where I grew up we have a road named Street Road. (The word road is beginning to look like not a real word.)
I always told new employees in my company that I really valued their input and questions when they started working. They were the only people who didn’t have the rose-colored glasses on, so they could see things that I could no longer see - for me, it was all normal. I had to rely on the newcomers to let me see things in front of me that maybe needed addressing, or changing. But it had become so familiar to me, that my eyes just glazed over when I saw it.
There was an exercise I did in graduate school to help with noticing things as they are. It involves touching objects — calling them by their name, then moving to the other side of the room and touching a different object, then calling it by its name. As in, I would touch a chair and say “chair“. Then cross the room and touch a backpack and say “backpack.“ The second step is starting to move faster — touching objects and calling them by the names of things they are not. Example: I would touch the chair and say “orange juice.“ And then cross the room and touch the backpack and say “vacuum cleaner.“ The goal of the exercise was to disconnect the defined name of an object from the object itself, so that you stopped ignoring something because it had a specific name (and therefore a finite and specific value) and started focusing on objects for all the value they had. When you looked at the chair, you didn’t see all of the detail, or dirt, or scratches. You just acknowledge the “chair” and then moved on. This exercise helped me to focus on the specifics and the details of objects by disconnecting the object from its predetermined, and agreed upon, name.
In business, we can potentially get ourselves in trouble if we use the same solution for every problem. We ignore the details in front of us, keep the status quo, because change is scary and difficult. But what if we challenged ourselves to see new solutions? New options for situations we have looked at every single day? Well then, the possibilities are endless.
We can look for our own personal Street Road. (Still funny.)
Quick Check in...
Whether we like it or not, there are a lot of things happening in our world right now that we cannot control (or even fully understand). The one thing we can control is how we react to what is going on.
A practice I do at each of my workshops is a quick check-in: How are people feeling? This is sometimes done as a virtual exercise or as an in-person discussion. Everyone gets a chance to be honest about how they are feeling and share it with the group. It allows us to be vulnerable and open with each other. It also allows us to be honest with ourselves. How are we feeling? What is keeping us from being present in the room, available, listening and focusing on how to support the group?
Once we can identify these things, we can begin to accept those distractions and allow them to exist. We can accept and build on (yes, and…) what is happening to us in a positive way.
I know I am feeling excited, a little overwhelmed and slightly anxious about the new year. As my schedule is filling up, and I am planning activities, I start to feel anxious about how I will be able to manage it all!
Going forward, my question to you is: How are you feeling?
Let’s embrace the messiness of life and start to figure out how to take what we have (whatever it is) and make something amazing.
Happy New Year. I can’t wait to see what we can do together.
Days get brighter, just wait
My first time in a Neolithic tomb was eye opening.
On one day - one day only - the sun shines over the hill, through the lintel above the entrance and shines into the chamber. That one day is the solstice: December 21st.
It’s a reminder that as it gets colder and the days get shorter, there is a point where it changes. Things get brighter and warmer.
Neolithic people used it to mark the end of winter and the coming of spring.
As we reach the solstice, what is the thing that reminds you that things get better? What reminds you that no matter how cold or dark it is, things will change. Summer will be here.
Brighter days are always ahead. Look for the reminders.
Be, Do, have
A lesson I learned running my non profit: many orgs operate under the idea of ‘if we HAVE these resources, then we will DO these things and we will BE this type of org.’
What I always prescribed to was, well, the opposite: who do I want to BE - be that. What do I want to DO - do that. And the HAVE (money, space, etc) will show up.
It’s more about doing what is right, what you want to do — and not waiting to have everything perfectly set up before you start.
In other words ‘if I HAVE these expensive running shoes, then I will DO the 5k, and I will BE fit and healthy.’
Or you can start running now with whatever shoes you have and BE a runner and get healthy and then get the shoes later.
BE, DO, HAVE.
So close, and yet so far away...
The past two years have created a lot of isolation and distance. It has also brought many people together, in ways that would have been previously unimaginable.
My last workshop for a client had participants in Singapore, London, Johannesburg, Mexico City and all over the United States. I've adjusted to waking up at all different hours to accommodate all different time zones. As much as we have been at home, adjusting to virtual work and figuring out how to look good on Zoom while in sweat pants and slippers, we've had the opportunity to connect with people in places all over the world. I can now count these people as friends. I get to hear how their lives and situations have been in upheaval due to COVID, and they get to hear about what is happening here in the US. They have expanded my understanding and knowledge of our connected human experience in ways I would have never imagined. We share stories of our lives, families, joys, sorrows and recipes.
We have all lost something in our lives from this pandemic. Let's also look at what we have gained: a global understanding, an international reach, and new friends. For this, I am grateful.
Happy New Year everyone. I hope to see you all face-to-face soon.
You might have heard of OMG or ROFL. Well, here’s a new acronym to help with your communications at work: LARO
What does it stand for? Listen, Acknowledge, Reflect and Offer.
When you are in a work meeting, and people are blocking the forward motion of the conversation by saying ‘yes, but that will not work because of…’ or ‘we don’t have the resources for that…’ or ‘that’s a bad idea…’, they have lapsed into CRITICALthinking rather than staying in DIVERGENT thinking. CRITICAL thinking is about evaluating, DIVERGENT thinking is about problem solving and solutions. There is a time and place for both methods, however, shutting down creative problem solving at each turn is not a useful strategy.
Try LARO to keep the conversation moving forward:
- LISTEN to the objections that people are bringing up.
- ACKNOWLEDGE they are bringing up a valid point. Critical thinking is necessary for strategic planning.
- REFLECT back what you hear. This allows the person to know that you heard them, and understand what they are saying and feeling.
- OFFER alternatives to move them into the possibility of problem solving. Use sentences like:
There was a recent scientific study on happiness: small amounts of money were given to people to spend on themselves, or to give to others. Researchers then tested the participants to discover the amount of happiness received from giving to others.
The study was published in Nature Communications.
Researchers from the University of Zurich in Switzerland told 50 people they’d be receiving about $100 over a few weeks. Half of the people were asked to commit to spending that money on themselves, and half were asked to spend it on someone they knew.
The researchers wanted to see whether simply pledging to being generous was enough to make people happier. Before handing out any money, they brought everyone into the lab and asked them to think about a friend they’d like to give a gift to or how much they would spend on themselves. They then performed functional MRI scans to measure activity in three regions of the brain associated with social behavior, generosity, happiness and decision-making.
Their choices—and their brain activity—seemed to depend on how they had pledged to spend the money earlier. Those who had agreed to spend money on other people tended to make more generous decisions throughout the experiment, compared to those who had agreed to spend the money on themselves.
Those people who chose to give the money to others also had more interaction between the parts of the brain associated with altruism and happiness, and they reported higher levels of happiness after the experiment was over.
The researchers concluded that “actually helping others and being generous to them increases happiness…”
One of the main rules I teach in Improv is that it is not about an internal focus. The lesson is: if I am making my partner look good, and I am focusing on serving them, then I am doing my job. And I know they are doing the same thing for me. When I am on stage and I say something that makes the audience laugh, I know it is not about me being brilliant. My fellow actors set me up so I could say that specific line which made the audience respond. It’s not about me, it’s about the group. This takes of the focus off of ‘what do I say next?’ and places it more on ‘how do I serve the other people on stage?’
Think about your office. When was the last time you saw someone make the choice to set someone else up for success, and not be concerned about getting the credit for themselves? When has your team focused on serving each other, and the mission of the company, rather than personal achievement?
It’s a fact: thinking outside of yourself / focusing on others can make your team more productive, happier and more effective. By adopting a group focus rather than an individual focus, and using ‘yes and’ as a rule, you can create a better work environment for your staff, and a better world for your clients.
For more information on workshops - email Andrew today!
System Disruption and 'yes and'
The iPhone was known as a disruptive force in the phone industry. I hear the term ‘disruptor’ being used a lot these days; how a new product will be the disruptor of whatever industry, and will be ‘shaking up‘ everything.
The question becomes: how do you figure out what can be a disrupter? If you are planning to improve on something, an idea or a product (like a phone) you have to break the pre-conceived notions of what you believe is possible. You have to think of what is desired, or what is outside the realm of possibility to create something new.
This is a hard task, considering we all have our own confirmation bias. We all have a frame of reference that our brains operate within. We can only step outside of that if we begin questioning that frame of reference and looking for things that do not fit into that frame. Only by doing that can we discover real changes.
And most importantly – you have to WANT to change. You have to want to recreate the new story to see the possibilities. For a long time, Kodak thought they were in the film business. As a result they missed out on the beginnings of the digital photo revolution, and other innovations. The frame that Kodak couldn’t change was understanding that their business wasn’t in film, it was in creating memories. The film business had worked for them in the past, so it was easier to stay with that frame, rather than looking to see what could be the next disrupter.
How do you do this? How do you constantly question the frame of reference you have, and see if it still serves your business? One way is through the ruthless and radical acceptance of reality. Things will always change, and we have to accept that and be prepared for new ideas. This is where the tool of using ‘yes, and’ (accepting the current status, and seeing what is possible in the future) is key. It is that skill of building on the reality we have, and using that to create innovation.
Yes, and. The ultimate disruptor.
To learn more about 'yes and ' training and find out how it can transform your organization, contact us!
Whenever I meet with a client about incorporating Improv into their training programs, I hear the same refrain: "So, do I have to stand up and say something funny?"
I've even had clients who thought that the workshop would entail wearing funny wigs or hats, and everyone being forced to do 'skits.'
I understand why people are asking me that question - clients have told me they have had Improv workshops where the instructor made them make animal sounds and toss imaginary balls at each other.
All of these descriptions make me CRINGE. As a professional actor, I have been forced to do many exercises like this before. As a leadership facilitator, I would NEVER make my clients do something like this. Exercises like that are embarrassing, and do not achieve measurable results (unless I am measuring what I never want to do again).
To help clarify a few things, I have compiled a few Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) to clear the air:
Q: Is an ImprovMindset workshop embarrassing?
A: NO! We spend at least 30 minutes creating a safe space to allow everyone to feel comfortable with being on their feet and working this manner. We adjust as needed to the group's energy to ensure that everyone can participate fully and equally.
Q: Will I have to stand up in front of people and make jokes?
A: NO! The core tenet of Improv is about making the others around you look good. The goal is to make your scene partner look good. We call this an external focus. Participants can relax knowing that the everyone has each other's backs. It is not about being the spotlight, it is about serving others.
Q: Will it be relevant to my work?
A: YES! Each of the lessons cover everyday tools to help you and your team be more productive, efficient and clear with your communication. It also helps your team be agile, and adapt to new ideas and innovate. An ImprovMindset is a shift in thinking that allows teams to move forward, fail fast and learn, and drive new ideas to completion.
If you have any questions you want answered about Improv for Business, just drop me a note! I'll be glad to schedule a call.
The Rip Tide
On a recent trip to Kaua'i, I had a chance to learn a lot about the water, survival and some great life lessons. (My last post had one of those - about assessment and evaluation.)
One great life lesson I learned was about water safety and how to react in a difficult and life threatening situation; how to survive being caught in a rip tide.
The first instinct we all have, when we are caught in a powerful force of nature that is dragging us away from shore and safety is to swim against it. We are in a battle to ensure our own survival - against an OVERPOWERING force of nature.
What I was told is that if you get caught in the rip tide, don’t swim against it! You want to swim parallel to it, until you reach the edge and can then you can get out. (See the picture above for clarification.)
The biggest mistake people do then when they get free of the rip tide, they start to head back to shore. The rip tide is still there, and if you go directly back you'll get caught in it again and dragged out to sea AGAIN. What you want to do is swim parallel to the shore for a while, then head back. This will allow you to get clear of the strong currents at the beginning of the rip tide that can pull you in again.
As I thought about that - I had to ask:
What issues do we all get caught in, and how do they lead us out to sea?
What do we do to get out of them?
Are we frantically swinging against a tide to try to save ourselves, or are we calmly accessing the danger and discovering tactics to overcome adversity?
And, does our plan work? Should we have swam parallel to the shore longer before we go back into the fray?
1. Identify the rip tide. What is it that is dragging you out to sea? Can you swim against it?
2. Use the shore. Identify your guiding principals, and use them to navigate your way out.
3. Access the danger. Spend time identifying how strong the force is that pulled you in. Then after getting distance, head back to the safety of the beach.
Be safe out there.