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.)
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:
As an improviser, I stepped on stage not knowing what I was going to say, or what was going to happen. I had no set, no script and no costume.
I got used to dealing with the uncertainty of not knowing what would happen.
As we start 2021, I think it’s important for us to accept that we don’t always have control over what will happen. 2020 definitely threw us a few curveballs! We learned to pivot - we found new ways to communicate and new ways of creating work.
We never know what will happen next. Let's embrace not knowing, and being comfortable with the uncertainty. (And if you do know what is going to happen, then email me. I’d love to know what your crystal ball tells you!)
A key lesson I learned in Improv was “make your scene partner look good.“
Sometimes that’s a hard lesson to learn, or to understand fully. Many organizations I have worked for had a Superman philosophy: "Without me, this whole place would collapse!" That idea doesn't allow space to make the rest of your team shine - instead it charges ahead with a 'take no prisoners' attitude.
Understanding that it is generally not about you is an opportunity for growth. In a sustainable team culture, everyone focuses on:
These items are bigger than the individual. As a team member, you are a part of the larger machine. You have a role to play. You need to bring everything you can to the table, and accept and build on the things that other people bring to the table. Together you can build something bigger than any one individual can create on their own. You can build brilliance.
Isn’t that the lesson you want your entire company to embrace?
Email Andrew or more information on workshops and presentations.
Thanks to Bruce Scheer - I have a podcast episode on iTunes right now!
Are you harnessing the power of Improv in your selling conversations? What??? In this episode of The Sales Conversation Podcast Andrew McMasters and I talk about the power of Improv in improving buyer and seller interactions. Specifically, Andrew highlights how to be a better listener, how to accept what the customer is offering, and then how to build upon their offerings. He then talks about how to bring your full self to a selling conversation. Key Takeaways: 🤜 Listen: Listen before you solve! Listen for connection. Listen to build relationships. Listen for understanding. Listen for context. Let the other person know they’ve been heard! 🤜 Yes, and...: The second someone hears “but,” they negate everything said before it. Using the word “and” can help keep the energy of the conversation moving forward. 🤜 Everything is an Offer: Whatever someone offers you, even an objection, is an offering. How do you accept it and work with it? Check out the episode "How to harness the power of improv in your selling conversations with Andrew McMasters” at 🎙The Sales Conversation Podcast
Check out the episode "How to harness the power of improv in your selling conversations with Andrew McMasters at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-sales-conversation-podcast/id1435033739
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.
Design thinking refers to creative strategies designers utilize during the process of designing.
Design Thinking seems to be on everyone's minds these days. A simple search will reveal multiple online sources for college classes, documents and white papers all discussing the ideas and methods of Design Thinking.
What is it really? It is a group of people all building on ideas. "Unlike analytical thinking, design thinking includes "building up" ideas, with few, or no, limits on breadth during a "brainstorming" phase. This helps reduce fear of failure in the participant(s) and encourages input and participation from a wide variety of sources in the ideation phases."
It is a practice of 'yes, and'.
Improv provides the structure to allow Design Thinking to work. It is the basis of Design Thinking in the ideation phase; How do we continue to move the conversation forward and upward, without having a 'no' or a 'yes, but' blocking the progress? It is the base toolset. And as this article in Fast Company magazine says, Improv Comedians make the best Design thinkers.
So give your organization a good dose of Design Thinking in a fun and engaging way that they will remember and utilize. Give your company an ImprovMindset.
Public speaking is an art. As someone who provides multiple speeches every year, I have a chance to see many of other speakers.
Inevitably, I see the same thing. Like this article in Forbes, the same mistakes are made over and over. You can see the coaching that someone has been told, and the little things that a speech coach did to quell the speaker's normal responses: they walk in a straight line from one side of the stage to another, they try to have flashy graphics, and they start with a joke of some sort (which often does not work as well as planned.)
From my work as a professional Actor - we train to engage an audience. We practice bringing a personal connection, carrying the rhythm and tone, changing the speed to make emphasis.These are all part of the tools of our trade. And it takes years to master - one ToastMaster class is not going to make you a dynamic speaker overnight.
As with all practices, it takes perseverance, training and practice. And it shows when someone has spent the time, and invested in their presentation. It makes us, as listeners, feel respected.
So next time you have a big speech coming up - consider it this way: You are a world famous actor, and these are your lines. You might win an Oscar/ Tony for this role, so you want to prepare for every possible scenario, and stay on message. And most important, you want to be willing to improvise based on unforeseen changes in the situation and make it all seem like it was planned.
So be prepared for your next presentation. Take an acting class.
In a recent report from USC, researchers discovered how being funny changes your brain.
They showed a cartoon from the New Yorker, and asked participants to create one funny caption, and one un-funny caption. Meanwhile, they performed MRI scans on them to record their brain activity.
“What we found is that the more experienced someone is at doing comedy, the more activation we saw in the temporal lobe,” said USC doctoral student Ori Amir, who led the study with Irving Biederman, professor of psychology and computer science. The temporal lobe receives sensory information and is the region of the brain key to comprehending speech and visual cognition. It’s also where abstract information, semantic information and remote associations meaningfully converge.
In contrast, the amateur comedians and non-comedians relied on their prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for executive functions like planning complex cognitive behavior and decision-making.
“The professional improv comedians let their free associations give them solutions,” Biederman said.
Many business leaders ask me what they can do to create more independent thinkers and problem solvers in their organizations. Now the answer is clear: Send them to an Improv Class! The more experience they get, the more they will rely on making new connections between items and creating innovative solutions.
For information about having an improv class for your organization, contact Andrew for details.