Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Applying Improvisation

As I mentioned in a previous post, Learning is my profession and Improv is my passion.
You might think that the two are entirely separate places but if you thought that you would be wrong.
Although Improv is most commonly thought of as a stage skill, there are bunch of people who take improv off the stage and into a whole range of other forums, from the corporate training room to coaching sessions, from community programs to organizational change management consulting.
A few years ago these people got together and created The Applied Improvisation Network.
I've been associated with this group since 1994 and in that time I've seen them grow is lots of wonderful ways. The first event of theirs I attended was their 2004 Conference in San Francisco. I think it was their 3rd or maybe 4th. Since then they have had international conferences each year, mostly over here in North America but in 2010 they had their first International conference in Europe. I should point out that AIN Europe has been active for a while and have had at least 3 Regional conferences before hosting the full international one. There have also been regional conferences in Asia and the first AIN 'Downunder' is set for 2012.
These people all share a common belief. That the improvisational approach and skills that allow a troupe on stage to create something out of nothing, can be used in a variety of non stage ways to do some amazing things.
Personally I believe that pretty much any 'soft' skill related to interpersonal interactions can be honed and improved using pretty much any exercise or game that a improv group uses to either warm up or perform with. A skillful facilitator can frame any exercise and then debrief it to pull out points to help learners see how they could do things differently, maybe even better.
The Applied Improvisation field is gaining more and more ground. The topic is being taught in business schools around the world, in law schools and is rapidly moving into the mainstream within the learning and development fields. ASTD had Second City provide one of their Keynotes at the 2010 ICE. I've attended (or facilitated) 2 events over the last year on the topic at my ASTD Chapter. More and more books on the subject are being published.
Maybe it's time for me to look for a better way to make a living by combining my passion with my profession.

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