I recently spoke to an individual who is in charge of a company, and he mentioned to me an award they give out called the ‘First Penguin Award.’
The idea is - if you are a penguin on the edge of the iceberg, with all the other penguins standing with you, who is the first one to jump into the water and swim to land? What risks are lurking under the surface? Will they all just freeze waiting on the iceberg? No one wants to go first… because maybe the first penguin will get eaten. And if they do get eaten then the others know not to jump in. So all the penguins just stand on the iceberg looking at each other.
Until one brave penguin steps up. They are the ‘first penguin’ to jump into the unknown. And they make it to land safely! The other penguins decide to follow! And everyone moves forward. Or, maybe they don't make it safely. And the other penguins now know they will get eaten if they jump in. Either way, someone had to take the first step...
The leader I spoke to encourages his employees to be the ‘first penguin’. To jump. To try something scary. He especially rewards them if they fail. And he publicly acknowledges them for being brave enough to jump off the iceberg.
By making failure something that is celebrated, his company culture encourages taking risks and trying innovative new ideas.
How can you encourage taking risks in your organization?
One way is to make it fun to fail. Employees can be more confident to experiment and try new things, knowing it is more important to try than to worry about failing. Give out your own 'first penguin' award. The winner gets to keep a stuffed penguin on their desk for a month.
That is how you succeed and create an innovative / growth mindset for your company.
To learn more about Innovation and Growth Mindset workshops, Contact Andrew for more info.
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!
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.
When I was in graduate school, my teacher, Steve Pearson, used to say that each individual creates their own method of working. The idea is that there is no single way to learn; we each have to figure out what works for us, and then take that path. I never quite understood the power of this lesson until recently.
This week I have been facilitating a variety of workshops for various organizations: Valve Software, Amazon, Space Needle LLC, and a few others. On every workshop, when I introduce an exercise for the group, inevitably there are a few people who work to ‘solve’ the game. They look for how to accomplish the task, in order to move onto the next task. It is a linear, goal-oriented mindset that appears to value winning and accomplishment over knowledge and problem solving. What tends to confuse people is when I describe that there are no “right” or “wrong” ways to do the exercise; the point of the exercise is to ‘do it’ and have an experience that draws correlations to our everyday habits. The exercise is about bringing awareness, not solving a problem.
As a teacher, I understand that my job is to give people the tools to find their own way, and teach them not to do what I did, but to create their own way of working. Telling someone the Five Best Methods for Productivity might be easily digestible (and highly profitable), however it doesn’t create true productivity. When people hear these lessons, they might change for a week or two, but they will revert to the practiced habits of the past. I have found that when people discover their own five methods of being productive - meaning the five that work for them based on their own experiences - then they actually do make lasting changes.
As an actor, and an artist, this is what we learn from our acting teachers. We constantly practice to see what works for us now, in the stage of life where we are now, knowing that what worked last week (or even last night!) might not be correct for today. Another wise acting teacher once said that each performance of a play must be 10-15% different each night, as each day always presents a bit differently. We strive to find what is relevant for this moment, so we can be present in our work, and not trying to “solve” the play.
So – the next time you find yourself placing the same solution on an issue to “solve” the problem, ask yourself:
By staying present and focusing on the lesson, rather than rushing to get the gold star of accomplishment, you can create real productivity – one that works for you.
There is one thing that separates good actors from struggling actors: How well do you listen?
In my work I get to interact with actors at all levels. A struggling actor knows their lines, and is pre-planning how they will react when they hear their scene partner say something. They are scripting (even if the play is improvised) how the story will come out, and how they will listen. There is a need to control what happens, and what the audience sees, rather than actually listening and being affected by what someone is giving you. In fact, you can actually see them trying to listen, as if listening is something to show people you are doing it. You can visually see them planning how they will respond, rather than listening and reacting.
The same is true for managers. I have worked with many managers who have a "listening face" which they use to "show" people they are listening. When asked to share what they just heard, their retention and understanding of what was said to them is appallingly low. And just like with actors, employees can see when you are not listening to them. They can see when you're merely waiting for their mouth to move so you can speak. They can see when you have disengaged because you have already solved the problem you think they have (even if you are not sure what the problem actually is, or if there even is one!) They can see when you are not present.
This skill is hard to learn, and there are a variety of methods to help you be aware of how you listen and how you can improve. After a few of my exercises, I have had participants say "This was the first time I really was able to hear what someone said..." Imagine if all your staff felt that way, like they have been heard and appreciated.
Honing this skill can affect your bottom line in multiple ways: increased engagement, improved customer satisfaction, innovative directions, happier and appreciative staff and family, etc. It's a simple skill that we often overlook in the wider scope of our work.
Find out how to increase your listening potential - email Andrew today.
A number of years ago, I listened to a lecture about the three areas of knowledge:
In fact, it is impossible. When we learn something new, we actually make a reference in our heads to something we already know. We categorize new knowledge based on previous experiences. So our brains are wired to make connections between items and to find commonalities.
To me this is the key to innovation; Driving those connections that a re possible deeper and deeper and making more remote, obscure connections to find something new. Instead of connecting on topics, can you connect based on shapes, or sounds, or style. This is how architects create new building designs based on a bird's wing, or business managers create new processes based on a board game. You have to be open to making those connections, and finding new pathways in your brain between two (or more) odd items. That connection leads to innovation.
So - don't waste you time trying to find something you don't know anything about. Use what you have, and accept and build on what you already know.
Click here for more information of Andrew's workshops on innovation and the uses of Yes, and in the workplace.
In Improv, we teach people to be 'in the moment.' In the moment means being aware of what's happening NOW, and to reacting to THIS moment rather than reacting to something that happened previously or something that reminds you the current situation.
I recently finished a workshop for a group regarding decision making and innovation tools. The process includes generating as much as possible (brainstorming) and then narrowing the field of options based on needs and desires defined before the process begins.
For me, those things are in perfect union. The decision making process sometimes gets jumbled by not defining your goals and intended outcomes first. If you can spend the time getting closer to what you want and closer to what you are attempting to see as an outcome of the decision, then the clearer you can be in reacting to the offers you receive in the moment. Brainstorming then becomes focussed based on needs and strategic directions, rather than just about divergent thought.
1. Define the outcome you would like to see: Start by defining what you are really trying to do, and get clear about the underlying motive of the action. .
2. Define the field of play: Where do you do this? What factors surround the decision?
3. Generate solutions without being tied down to the constraints of reality. An unreal solution can lead to a possible solution somewhere.
After that - it is about action.
Question - How do I do this? Answer - Just do it!
Question - Am I doing it right? Answer - Yes!
Once you have made a motion forward, new information becomes available. That new information now makes the previous moment inconsequential, and creates a new situation to be dealt with.
So the question becomes, what role does a gut reaction play in your decision making process?
Many people look at the theatrical work that my company does onstage and they say "it's amazing that this is unscripted!" Or more often it is "So, what part was scripted, and what part was improvised..."
The idea that things are constantly being created in the spot using a few simple rules is mind boggling, and somewhat impossible for people to believe.
The truth is - Improvisation is an act of constant innovation. We take what the audience gives us and create a theatrical work that amazes, engages and involves the audience as active participants in the process. The audience leaves the theater knowing they had a part in the end product that was created.
Wouldn't that be great for your business? If each employee left with the thought that they were a part of the whole, that they had an amount of control over the larger piece that has been created?
These rules for engagement in improvisational theater cross over to any phase of work, to any industry. They can help shape how your company operates, giving each of your employees the chance to leave each day feeling like they are a part of the larger organization.
These tenets: Being willing to play, finding the drive / commitment in what you do, listening and building on offers with your team; these are all skills that we strive for in our organizations.
So why would people look at Improv and say 'what can you teach me about business?'
The answer is: a lot.
One of the best things that I have ever found to describe the process of 'yes, and' is a box of mismatched legos.
What can you build with them? ANYTHING!
With each piece you have a short thought process to go through:
And you have to be willing to play. To see your vision alter based on what you have. Not many of us running companies can scrap all our resources and buy new ones. We use what we have to accomplish the goals we set out.
When a piece doesn't fit, we save it. We use what we can and remember that the next structure might need completely different pieces. The process of building an organization has sometimes been described as 'walking backwards. ' We see what we need better in reverse than we did going forward. In that moment, we used what we had to do what we needed to do.
So the next time you are stuck on a decision - write down all the resources you have as 'Building Blocks' and see if there is a new way to arrange them.
What can you build this time? ANYTHING!
Learn how 'Yes, and..' training can support new idea generation and innovation in your business.