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We live in a VUCA world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. Improv can help your staff cope with a world defined by constant change.

The games of improv act like microcosms for the uncertain circumstances we encounter every day in the world, and thus offer a perfect framework to train our responses to it.

Improv players are comfortable existing within uncertainty: when they go on stage they simply have no idea what suggestions the audience will throw at them. Improv performers thrive in this ambiguity, seeing uncertainty as an adventure to be embraced, rather than a circumstance to be feared. And that is probably the most helpful part of the improv philosophy: always seeing opportunities to be taken, rather than problems to be escaped from. Improv players throw away pre-conceived ideas in a heartbeat, and exist and react in the moment as the situation unfolds before their eyes. If they want to do a scene about a baker, (say), and the audience suggestion is “space-man”, then they just go with the flow with an attitude of optimism and playfulness.

Improv players believe in the philosophy that “everything is an offer”, that is, every new bit of information or feedback that the environment throws up is potentially the start of something amazing. They see these opportunities by cultivating awareness: being present in the moment, listening actively, rather than being “stuck in their heads”. Improv players love uncertainty, they understanding that the randomising element of unpredictable suggestions, and scenes unfolding unplanned in front of them, can take them to places that linear thought never could. Therefore change often leads to incredible creative leaps, and this should be celebrated not avoided.

Furthermore, possibly the greatest attitude of mind improv players have is a very positive view of failure and mistakes. These are often wonderful opportunities in scenes. This is relevant in business too. Some amazing things have come out of flops. For example, Instagram started life as a maps app for your phone called Burbn, but was a failure. The only part that seemed to be popular was a feature where you could upload photos of where you were. So, it was re-launched as a totally different product and was eventually bought by Facebook for a billion dollars. Improvisers trust their talent to deal with change and mistakes, and this is all underpinned by an ideology of creativity: improvisers are trained to believe that whatever happens they can deal with it, and turn it into something brilliant.

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VUCA: Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity