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The Power of Paradox: Importance and Practicality of Improv (10/13/2011)

All Day Workshop and Evening Program  Meeting


Presenter:  Izzy Gesell, MS Ed, CSP, Head Honcho at IzzyG & Co

    Izzy Gesell is a self-proclaimed humorologist and pioneer in using improvisation for personal and corporate skill building. He was one of the first to bring concepts of Improv Theater into the business world.  To learn more about Izzy go to http://www.izzyg.com/   His humorously serious-and seriously humorous! programs help people not only thrive and prosper, but survive.
Izzy is a Certified Speaking Professional from the National Speakers Association as well as an author, presentation coach and facilitator. He has contributed to the International Association of Facilitator’s Handbook and Humor Me, a compilation by America’s most prominent humorists.

Program Description:
This is a fun time to be in our business. Our clients hunger to get themselves involved as we look for new ways to keep them focused and interested. That means we can play and be taken seriously at the same time! As we start to incorporate more playfulness into our work and our lives, we need to know which games to choose and how to use them most effectively. 

Why Improv?        Improvisation theater games are wonderful resources because they call for participants to respond to an experience as it happens. This moment of involvement and spontaneity sparks discovery, creative expression, shared laughter and behavior change. Improv is exciting, scary, challenging, immensely enjoyable and paradoxical for facilitators and participants. In my experience, very few people are indifferent to the idea of participating in an improv structure.  The premise behind the use of Improv is that the skills that make Improvisers successful are the same ones that make all of us successful.

The hazard for us in using these games lies in the fact that no one can know how an improv game is going to turn out. Therefore, when using these games, we can’t plan ahead; we can only step into the uncertainty with confidence in ourselves and our ability to make use of whatever comes up. In other words, we have to experience exactly what we ask of our participants – trust, vulnerability, spontaneity, eagerness and openness to being uncomfortable in public. As an added kicker, we have to endure it at exactly the same time as they do.  Why do it then? What’s in it for us? There are certainly safer ways to make a point.  

Net Results:    
  The greatest fear of “working without a net” is looking foolish, incompetent or wackier than others. When you experience the games from the same perspective and emotional level as your participants, your words and ideas carry more weight because you’ve shared their struggles. You have established rapport. You’re now in a great position to help your clients overcome the usual obstacles to success: self – doubt, fear of looking foolish, thinking too much about what to do, and being resistant to change. Joanne Schlosser, of Phoenix, Arizona uses improv because “it puts people in the right frame of mind to achieve breakthroughs in thought.” Because improv games are tools, their real value lies in what they create for the people we work with- the ability to balance spontaneity and control.

Another convincing reason to use improv games stems from the effect they have on the people watching the players. Observers of improv games experience a level of intensity and involvement similar to the participants. So you can link to everyone in the room without having to have everyone up there with you! The energy in the room becomes electric.

What You See Is Who They Are         Improv is helpful because people don’t often take the time to analyze their interactions and processes. We’ve found that the way a person behaves during an improv game is an insight into how they will behave in other stressful situations. Their thinking is also indicative of what they believe in those situations. So by asking certain basic questions we illuminate what’s going on for the players and enable them to intuitively understand how they’re own thinking affects their outcomes. Through improv we’re able to see how a specific behavior or thought pattern leads to a result. It’s like looking into the workings of the mind!

The opportunity in the “instructional moment” for us is always in investigating WHY the game does or doesn’t work and what QUALITIES are present or absent. We always try to keep a participant playing a game until they have a successful experience. That gives everyone, audience included, a complete, participatory encounter and illuminates the workings of the interactions.

We’ve found it most effective to let players continue a game until they’ve had a “successful” experience. This allows them (and the audience) to truly experience transformational change.