Thriving in an unscripted world – by Cathy Sorbara
Improv tutor extraordinaire, Clare Kerrison was our special guest at this year’s winter networking event on December 9th, 2014 at the Lucy Cavendish College. In an evening filled with laughter and the occasional bell-ringing, Clare, hailing from New Zealand, empowered us to step out of our shell and enhance our communication skills using the theories of improvisational theatre. Here, performers are left on stage not knowing what will happen throughout the course of a given show. To survive and thrive, they follow one simple rule: “Yes, and …” where they learn to be present, actively listen and then contribute creatively. This rule fits exceptionally well into a workplace environment where one must learn adaptability.
Throughout the workshop, Clare took us through a series of exercises where we put this principle into practise with thought-provoking outcomes. In one such exercise, grouped into pairs, one person proposed a vacation. The partner then had to agree to the suggestion and build upon it. “Yes we can go to Honolulu and when we arrive we will dance in Oahu!” This back-and-forth positive construction of ideas had powerful results. We were inadvertently improving our communication skills by breaking down negative barriers and increasing our level of acceptance. In the process, our own anxieties were lowered, our energy enhanced and, when carried over into the workplace, this methodology could change people’s perception of one another and reverse workplace negativity.
Other important lessons resonated throughout the evening. We learned how to deal with the unexpected and how to be comfortable when our objective fails. For example, being denied the office water-cooler that served Orange Aid! In addition, we learned not to let our own pre-conceived rules restrict us from unleashing our creative side. Throw in the occasional animal noise as well as delicious cake and I would consider the evening a definite success.
A special thank you to Clare for her ability to teach us these valuable lessons with enthusiasm and humor. I think I can speak on behalf of the participants when I say she can expect to see a few AWiSE members at her upcoming shows with the Cambridge Improv Factory.