Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0197, March 29, 2005 | 7,000 Subscribers..

Dear friends,

When most of us think of improvisation, the term brings to mind stand-up comedy and TV shows like "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" Although comedians do use improvisation, it's not strictly their purview. It can be put to use for more serious pursuits, and those who use it for training find it extremely effective.
This week's article, "Improv Meets the Business World," by Jennifer Salopek, explores how improv is being used quite successfully in corporate training for managers and business leaders.

Check out one of our new 5-day teleclasses, "The Improvisational Facilitator." This class will present powerful, practical improv techniques that are actually inner attitudes and practices that you can use to immediately enhance your facilitation, training, and group leadership skills. This class will be very interactive and will use many innovative experiential activities that will surely surprise you. I'm really looking forward to stepping through this process with you and hope to see many of you there. Please see details at the bottom of this issue.

In this Issue:

Feature Article: Improv Meets the Business World

Expert Tele-Seminars: Check out our growing collection of pre-recorded expert interviews.

New 5-Day Teleclass: The Improvisational Facilitator

Have a great week!

Steve Davis


Starts April 4th
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Starts April 25th
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Seven Simple Secrets to Successful Workshops.
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Self-Facilitation Skill

Improv Meets the Business World

Improv techniques are changing management styles for the better

The Point

When most of us think of improvisation, the term brings to mind stand-up comedy and TV shows like "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" Although comedians do use improvisation, it's not strictly their purview. It can be put to use for more serious pursuits, and those who use it for training find it extremely effective.

Alain Rostain discovered improvisation in 1991, while working as a consultant for Pricewaterhouse Coopers. He immediately recognized its implications for business and began taking classes to become more adept. In 1993, he left to form Creative Advantage, a New York-based consultancy. Early on, he used improvisation as a tool for creativity and brainstorming; now, CA offers a full suite of innovation services. Rostain emphasizes that improvisation is a tool: "Our clients don't buy improv; they buy solutions."

Some of those clients include Kraft, Starbucks, GE, R.J. Reynolds, and Blockbuster, which hire CA to work on projects ranging from reducing costs in a product category to training new managers in conducting difficult conversations.

"Improv in business is exploding. It is a powerful tool that had to overcome the idea that it's some kind of metaphor, or that it's frivolous. Improvisation is about real people doing stuff in the moment," Rostain explains. Effective improvisation embraces several basic concepts:

- Pay attention and be present
- Make your partner look good
- Don't censor yourself
- Say, "Yes, and..." instead of "Yes, but"
- Listen generously
- Take risks and embrace failure
- Say the obvious thing-in other words, the first thing that comes to mind. There are no wrong answers.

Many of those concepts are the same ones that govern productive brainstorming. But why is improvisation so effective in training? "The most fundamental skill in improv is listening," says Rostain. "People are pretty poor at it in general. Improv forces you to focus on what the other person is saying. It makes people very present."

Improv also brings a "real life" approach to experiential learning. When working on the topic of difficult conversation with new managers recently, Rostain had participants suggest situations that presented challenges for them. "We don't use a pre-planned case study," he says. "We model situations live. It's more than a role play; it's a real play, made up on the fly." Using improv to teach improv also provides valuable lessons: "We model making mistakes. The learning takes best when people are willing to take risks and make mistakes."


Improvisation in business is quickly gaining ground and credibility. Rostain reports that improvisation techniques are now being used in training around corporate values and ethics. Improv’s emphasis on participation and storytelling means that the “participants internalize those values; they’re not meaningless,” he says.

Performance of A Lifetime partners with Duke Corporation Education (recently named the number one program in the United States by Business Week and Financial Times) to design its experiential learning offerings. Scholars at such prestigious institutions as the Richard Ivey School of Business in Toronto, are doing research on improv, as well as using it in their own teaching.

Mary Crossan, a professor at Ivey, writes: We extended our research in organizational learning and strategic renewal in order to investigate what it takes to improvise and how it differs from more traditional approaches. We studied improvisation, working with The Second City Improvisational Company of Chicago to understand more about the craft. Soon the Ivey Business School and Second City were working together to provide the skills of improvisation to Ivey students and the business community.

We discovered that not only does improvisation provide a way to understand what it takes to be spontaneous and innovative, but also that exercises used by actors to develop their skill can be adopted by business as a means to experience and enhance individual and organizational capacity to be innovative and responsive.

Elmhurst Hospital's Bezmen is a living example of the truth of those words: She says that learning improv radically changed her management style. "I was very into knowing and control. Now, I feel as though I can give people options and build on what they're saying to me. The learning opportunity was a gift. I feel much closer to my staff "

Improvisation is also gaining credibility in the business world by organizing itself. Rostain is one of the founding members of the Applied Improvisation Network, a group designed to share best practices and document how improv is creating value. In his vision statement for the organization, he wrote, "Until very recently, only a few people were applying improv to business. In the past year, however, most training, leadership, and learning conferences have included improv presentations. I've also noticed a growing number of improv practitioners at these events. But we have yet to come together as a large community I need to be with people who do what I do. If we don't share it, we won't grow."

For trainers who are interested in incorporating improv techniques in their own work, Rostain notes that most of the exercises are in the public domain. The AIN Website offers a wealth of articles on everything from theory to activities and exercises. Creative Advantage sells a card deck called "Juicers" that shows you how to conduct 36 activities. Rostain also recommends 58-1/2 Ways to Improvise in Training: Improvisation Games and Activities for Workshops, Courses, and Team Meetings, by Paul Z. Jackson. And, of course, you can attend AIN's annual conference in New York this year. .

"There's a real need for new approaches, and it's growing by the hour," concludes Salit. "People are experiencing death by PowerPoint. They're open to improvisation, but we have to educate them, articulating learning objectives and so forth. We're teaching as opposed to selling."

About the Author: Jennifer J. Salopek is contributing editor to T+D Magazine.


In reviewing the basic concepts of improvisation in the article above, which ones do you feel you could improve on and how might they make your more effective in your work?
Please send us your comments.
Expert Tele-Seminars

One-Hour Micro-Skills Tele-Seminars

Check out our growing collection of pre-recorded, one-hour teleclasses with experts discussing key skill areas important to group workers. Each recording is available in either real-audio or CD format, comes with class notes, and several relevant bonuses. Click here for titles and details.

In the Spotlight

The Improvisational Facilitator

5-day Teleclass on the use of improv techniques to enhance your facilitation, training, and group leadership skills

Learning improv techniques to become a more effective facilitator and group leader

The Improvisational Facilitator, 5-Day Teleclass

The inner attitudes of facilitators is the key to their success with groups. However, very few trainings address the development of those inner qualities that can make a good facilitator great. That's why I'm thrilled to be offering this class where we'll present powerful, practical improv techniques that are actually inner attitudes and practicies that you can use to immediately enhance your facilitation, training, and group leadership skills.

This dynamic teleclass, led by master trainer, Sue Walden, is for anyone who facilitates, manages, teaches, mediates, coaches, counsels, directs any group. This highly interactive course provides an experiential approach using very novel exercises to help you build the skills to create an environment for participation; one that encourages openness and risk-taking for you and groups.

How the 5-Day Format/Training works...
1. You dial into your class every day for 5 days (Mon-Fri) for a 60-minute focused training segment using a conferencing bridge.
2. During each class we will all leave the bridge line for short 8-12 minute periods to give you the opportunity to engage in short exercises with a partner to practice and deepen your skills.
3. You work through a learning guide during the 5 days which accompanies the class as a resource.
4. You will have the opportunity to discuss issues on the subject matter with the instructor and your classmates via an online listserve during the course.
5. During the week, you may access the instructor via email for help or situational questions.

5-Day Improvisational Facilitator Training Agenda...
Here's what you'll be learning and doing during the 5-Day course...

Being present to your natural creativity

  • Overview
  • Introducing the Parking Lot
  • Awareness experience
  • What is your default facilitation skill set?
  • Improv Core Skills that support facilitation
  • Exploring 1st Core Skill: Present Time
  • The "Voice Mirror," a simple and powerful listening tool
  • Facilitation Applications

Building the "muscle" that encourages participation

  • Check in on practice assignment
  • Explore 2nd Core Skill: Openness
  • Experiencing the look and feel of openness
  • Building the openness “muscle”
  • The "Yes and..." approach
  • Facilitation Applications

Making flexibility a way of being

  • Check in about practice assignment
  • Explore 3rd Core Skill: Flexibility
  • Combining Being Present and Open to become more flexible
  • Identify unexpected challenges in facilitating
  • Building the options and possibilities “muscle”
  • Facilitation Applications

Witnessing the magic

  • Check in about practice assignment
  • Introduce “The Observer”
  • Apply Core Skills to self
  • Getting present with self
  • Quiet the inner critic
  • Think on your feet
  • Be aware of your language
  • Facilitation Applications

Further applications and applied Improv

  • Check in about practice assignment
  • Explore other applications of Improv Core Skills
  • Emptying the Parking Lot
  • Q & A with the Applied Improv Process

Benefits to you of participating from the 5-Day
Improv Training...

1. Get a lot more comfortable being "in the moment" with your groups..
2. Learn simple strategies that will help you to be more open and flexible to the specific and dynamic needs of your groups.
3. Come to enjoy dealing with the "unexpected" in your groups.
4. Gain tools that will help you relax and have a lot more fun with your groups.
5. Discover reservoirs of creativity within you that you didn't know existed.
6. Collaborate and learn from a community of your peers, all passionate about empowering groups.

Also included with your training...
In addition to the 5-Day training described above, you also receive:
1. Free Learning Guide, ($20 value) to help you drill down deep and master the art of improv for use in facilitation and group work.
2. Free access to the RealAudio version of the 5-Day training ($69 value).
3. Free pre-recorded one-hour real audio teleclass, "The Art of Improv in Facilitation, featuring Izzy Gesell, who discusses the use of humor and improvisational theater techniques as facilitation tools.($20 value).
4. Articles and resources around using Improv in leadership and facilitation:
- Collection of humor and improv resources.
__- The Six Paradoxes of Improv. Six paradoxes that will help free you to be a better facilitator
____and trainer.

The full cost of training/access is only $89 including the free items ( worth $109) listed above. Everything you read about above is included. And, we offer a 100%-satisfaction-guaranteed guarantee.

Immediately upon completion of your registration, you will receive an email with instructions to access the course and free article bank. This course is limited to 20 individuals, first come, first served.

April 4 - April 8, 2005, 10:00 AM PT, 1:00 PM ET (NY Time), 60 minutes each day.

Please click here to register.

One-Day Live Version

Interested in a one-day "live" version of this class offered to your group? Email us to discuss options.

Your instructors

Sue Walden. Sue Walden is the Founder and Director of ImprovWorks, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to building Life Skills through Improvisation. Her experience includes a BA in Education and 26 years of teaching, performing and adapting and widely applying the techniques of improvisation. She approaches improv training as a powerful and joyful way to peel away constraints, restraints and inhibitions, allowing the naturally expressive, collaborative and creative self to emerge.

Sue is a skilled teacher in ImprovWorks' public workshop program, a dynamic corporate facilitator, an engaging speaker, an author (Working with Groups to Enhance Relationships, Whole Person Assoc.), the delightful "Playmeister" of both the public and corporate Recess! programs, the director and a regular performer with San Francisco's longest-running improvisational theater company, "Flash Family". She has been a member of the Specialty Staff for the year-long Co-Active Leadership Program since its inception eight years ago.

Her current passion is training trainers and consulting on how to design powerful experiential workshops. Sue promises that, in any of her programs, while the learning may be challenging, it will also be fun!

Steve Davis. Steve Davis, M.A., M.S., is an Facilitator's Coach, Infoprenuer, and free-lance human, helping facilitators, organizational leaders, educators, trainers, coaches and consultants present themselves confidently, access their creativity, empower their under-performing groups, enhance their facilitation skills, and build their business online and offline.

Steve spends most of his time building and running He also publishes a weekly ezine for facilitators called, the Master Facilitator Journal, continues to write ebooks, design teleclasses, and maintain a part-time coaching practice. His breadth of experience spans business, corporate management, engineering, teaching, spiritual psychology, and wellness, offering a pragmatic yet creative coaching foundation. To learn more about Steve, visit his website at

About the satisfaction guarantee
If, for any reason, you are not satisfied with this package, simply email us with a request to refund/credit your credit card in the full amount and we will do so immediately. It's our policy to do this and we honor this in every single case. This policy completely removes the buying risk for you and keeps our customer-satisfaction rates extremely high.

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