Improvisation

    Improv and Innovation Do Mix

    ImprovtoInnovateImprov and Innovation do mix — and it’s not funny.

    You don’t have to be funny for Improv training to be useful in innovation. There are two things holding back more business people from pushing the Improv training button:

    1.) They believe that Improv is difficult and that you need to have a funny bone, and,

    2.) They believe that while Improv might be a good soft skill there is no direct and near term benefit to innovation (or other corporate goals).

    Classic improvisation games can help solve serious business problems and you don’t have to be particularly clever or funny. The benefits of using Improv — if done properly — are immediate. If you want the specifics of how, please have me in to do a workshop.

    I trained with Players Workshop of Second City, and also with Improv Olymics (IO). I never had more fun in my life especially learning the long form game, the Harold.  I learned to allow myself to think spontaneously. It’s the 80-20 rule with Improv. In a very short time nearly anyone can dramatically improve at spontaneous thinking.

    Many innovation facilitators use Improv games as energizers in Idea Generation sessions. I go a step further than most — I use the games directly in the innovation process. I need to credit my Innovise Guys partner and Second City alum Doug Stevenson here — together we mapped out, experimented with, and developed the adapted games. Adapted Improv games have been part of my session designs ever since because they really work.

    When you bring in an Improv group to do a workshop be sure to ask if they can show you how to adapt games to things like: challenge or insight exploration, idea generation, story or concept development, and even planning. If they don’t have a ready answer on how to use games —  don’t expect the team to be able to do much with the games beyond fun breaks and energizers. Fun breaks are only the tip of the iceberg in using improv for innovation.

    Let’s face it: it’s hard to get people thinking differently. Improv games are magically good at getting people thinking differently. The games, to be useful, need to be focused, closely coached, and thoughtfully debriefed. Debriefing helps you “harvest” insights and ideas. Viola Spolin, who invented many of these games, designed them so actors could learn to be comfortable in their own skin, spontaneous, and how “not to act, but to be”. When people are just being in the context of a game all sorts of useful things come out of their mouths.

    You might think this requires experienced improvisers, but in reality, it does not.  The purpose of Improv for Innovation is fresh thinking, not comedy performance. With a bit of training anybody can improvise – and then use the output to innovate.  The intent with adapted Improv games in business is  to learn from the game.  Even very poorly done improv (from a performance perspective) can be a rich learning experience and a highly generative one. The key is training and facilitation to do the translation. 

    Being creative — and making something up — is a necessary starting point for both improvisors — and innovators. Innovators do well to borrow the classic techniques and repurpose them.

    And yes, they’ll have fun doing it.

    For more information on how you can use Improv to Innovate, see my write up here, or get in touch, gregg@greggfraley.com

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    Training is an Innovation Accelerant

    Creativity and innovation training is a highly effective accelerant for business results. When I step into a room to facilitate an innovation, strategy, or idea generation session I nearly always find a great deal of energy. What I also often find is inexperience — in the kind of thinking necessary to innovate. Successful managers and leaders are promoted up the ladder because of their great analytical thinking skills. Day to day, operationally, that’s what’s called for and that’s what’s rewarded. The bad news is the more imaginative and divergent thinking required at the front end of innovation is rarely used and almost never rewarded. That’s why those sessions often start with a great deal of pizazz but fade into lethargy

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    Indigan Storytellers Debut

    I had the pleasure of participating in the debut performance evening of the Indigan Storytellers group last Friday night. As Rocky Balboa once said “you shoulda been there.” It was an intimate evening of exquisitely told stories coupled with fine hand-crafted whiskey. The location was Journeyman Distillery in Three Oaks, Michigan. The room was packed and a good time was had by all. I report on the event here for two reasons. First, because Storytelling as an art form is creativity of the highest order. Innovators of all kinds have much to learn about the craft as a method to elaborate new inventions, messages, and brands. Learning how to write and then perform a 10 minute story is an exercise

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    Ideational Speaker, Gregg Fraley

    I do keynotes on creativity and innovation topics — and this is not something I hide. It’s all over my website and I do my best to promote my speaking on FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and in my blog postings. So, it’s not unusual for me to be confronted — at a cocktail party or a business meeting — with the comment: So you’re a “Motivational Speaker.” It’s a fair observation, but it’s really…inexact when it comes to describing what I actually do. It’s not Wrong, but there’s more to my speaking than motivation. My talks are about ideas, so really, I’m an Ideational Speaker.  Yes, I make an effort to motivate people to be more creative and innovative. So, I

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    Orin Davis Report from World Innovation Forum

    The following are thoughts from Orin Davis, Phd, who is covering the World Innovation Forum. As always, Orin makes some good points, notes from talks from the Mayor of Asheville, NC, the On Your Feet Improv group, and Michael Martin of Vibram. So, here’s what you missed at WIF. ****** Ideas from the World Innovation Forum  (by Orin Davis, Phd) With some speakers, you just have to be there to really get the marrow of what they have to say, but here are some piquant ideas from speakers at the World Innovation Forum:  Terry Bellamy — Mayor of Asheville, NC Make an investment in a sustainability endeavor, and keep reusing the savings in other sustainability endeavors to have sustainable infrastructure

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    Spontaneous Thinking and the Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Jonathan Winters

    “If your ship doesn’t come in, swim out to meet it.” Jonathan Winters Last week, a personal hero of mine, Jonathan Winters, passed away. He had a long, full, complicated, crazy, and indeed, mad, mad, mad, mad, life. If you don’t know who he is or why I’d be doing a post about him in a creativity and innovation blog, please just go to YouTube and watch this. If you really want to snort milk through your nose, try this one. Winters was a comic genius, a creative tour-de-force, and, a man who “used” his affliction with bi-polar disorder positively. He was one of the first public figures to admit to treatment for mental illness having “gone to the zoo”

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    Gonzeaux #8 — Florida

    I spent most of the past week in the great state of Florida. While I hardly exhausted the potential of it’s vast expanse and endless coastline, I did get a gonzeaux dose of it. The FEI 2012 Conference lived up to it’s billing and reputation as the “serious” innovation conference. Hard to summarise, but let me try: great, insightful, relevant speakers, interesting interactions with both participants and vendors, and lots of fun and conversations around the edges. All about innovation of course. It’s expensive, but it you’re serious about innovation at your organisation and want to be aware of trends in the “industry” it’s well worth going. I made some great connections for KILN, which was my personal goal in

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    Get Attention in Six Seconds — Or Have a Hindenberg Disaster

    For about three years in the early 80′s I was a stand-up comic. It was a humbling experience. I was bad. Really, really, bad — particularly at first. There is nothing quite like “dying” on stage as a stand-up, think the Hindenberg disaster. Multiply by 10 your most humiliating experience — that will give you some idea. Stand-up audiences have a notoriously short fuse for inauthentic, not-funny, boring, stupid, or pretentious comic wanna-be’s. Basically, you have a brief moment to get their attention and hold it. If you haven’t got the attention of a group in the first six seconds — and this is true for any presentation — you are on your way to death. Business groups may be

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    How To Be Open Minded, 5 Ways To Inspire Innovation

    Some people have no idea what it means to have a “Generative Discussion.” A generative discussion is when people talk, and in the process of discussing something, use a bit of vision, imagination, and ideation. Entrepreneurs and inventors are good at this; they tend to always be looking for the opportunity in what’s being talked about. “What If…” or “Wouldn’t it be Cool If…” or “How Might We…” are phrases you often hear. Now dig, I’m not talking about brainstorming (in any of its many forms and definitions).  I’m talking about, well, talking — but with a creative twist. Creative talking, Innovative talking (aka a Generative Discussion) is more than debate — which is usually about proving how right you

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    Adapting Improv Games to Ideation/Problem Solving

    I am often asked about how improv can be used in Idea Generation. I’m asked because I’ve done improv in Chicago at the schools there (IO and Players Workshop of Second City) and I do Idea Generation as a business.  While I’m not a serious candidate for Whose Line Is It Anyway, I have learned, and integrated, the basics into how I think. As for Idea Generation/Brainstorming/Corporate Problem Solving it’s practically all I do these days, so, I’d likely make that All Star team. Call me the spitballer who mixes pitches like structured problem solving and improvisation. Let me state it simply:  You can adapt classic comedy improvisation games to help solve serious business problems.  You can use these adapted

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