• Facilitator Bios

Learn a little bit about the backgrounds and teaching philosophies of our corporate workshop facilitators.

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Max Dickins

Max Dickins is the Company Director and co-founder of Hoopla Business. He is an award-winning comedian who has both written for and performed on television in both the UK and the USA. Max started his career in radio, before turning his talents to the stage with sell-out shows such as ‘My Groupon Adventure’ which was later turned into his first book. He is also a critically acclaimed playwright, having toured his sell-out plays nationally.

What is the key reason a team should undertake improv for business training?

It’s common to hear companies throw around clichés such as ‘teamwork makes the dream work’ and name checking buzzwords such as ‘collaboration’. But improv doesn’t consider these as abstract terms for ticking boxes. What improv does is break everything down into specific and applicable behaviours so that people can actually change the way they work.

For example, people often consider themselves to be good listeners. However, after taking an improv workshop they realise that actually they aren’t a good listener at all! By being specific to the best practices of collaboration and looking at them as individual teachable behaviours, people can identify their weaknesses and actively improve.

What improv fundamental do you find most useful and why?

Improv teaches you that the best way to solve a difficult problem is to start.

While this seems like an obvious thing to say, in the real world people don’t follow that advice. Rather than start, most people plan extensively. Of course planning can be useful but only if you know exactly what the solution will look like. When we’ve got complex problems to solve, it’s impossible to know what the solution will look like so we need to prototype quickly.

Let’s say that you were a website designer and you wanted to create a site for a window cleaning company. You don’t know what the end product will look like at the beginning of the process. Instead you need to build something first to show the client so that you can learn based off of feedback and your own experiences of building it. You can gain a lot more from the improvisers philosophy of building a prototype and testing it, rather than sitting on a problem and planning it to death.

How does improv help you deal with uncertainty?

Improv allows us to practice being out of your comfort zone. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily being comfortable with being uncomfortable or being in a constant state of terror or happiness, it’s about being somewhere in between. Business Improv training is about what do I do with that feeling and what is my attitude when things go wrong?

Our society’s narrative behind mistakes say that they are shameful and show stopping disasters. However mistakes are always part of the process when running a company, they are unavoidable. Improv teaches us to learn from our mistakes and pivot off of them rather than be paralysed by them.

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Monica Gaga

Monica is an experienced presenter, comedian, producer and actor. She is one of the key figures behind the regular sell out show ‘Do The Right Scene’, a BAME comedy night on the Hoopla Impro mainstage. She also regularly runs BAME workshops to improve representation for people of colour within the London theatre scene.

In what ways do the behaviours of improvisation make your work culture more inclusive?

First of all, ‘yes and’ requires inclusion to work in the first place! ‘Yes and’ means that we are delaying any initial judgements on ideas and instead we accept and build. ‘Yes and’ allows us to equal the status of everyone in the room, anyone who wants to join in with the process gets to have their say.

Another improv tenant that is valuable for inclusion is listening. If you’re really listening to someone, it makes them feel included. To go deeper than that, listening makes sure we are engaging with that person and it means our response will be directly inspired by any communication offers that they are giving us.

Listening is also a fantastic tool for countering any preconceptions we have about someone. For example, we could look at a person’s background or whatever their job is and jump to conclusions about what they are like and who they are as a person. However if we replace this with active listening and focusing on that person rather than our own preconceptions, it means we no longer make these potentially damaging and incorrect judgements.

Why is Creativity useful in business?

It would be rare to be in a situation where you are offering a service or a product that other companies are not already offering. So how do you separate yourself from the competition? Creativity allows you to unlock new avenues and new approaches so that you’re not simply a rehash of something that already exists. Being more creative also puts you in a situation where you are trying new things, fostering a culture of people who are willing to learn and pivot off of new information.

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Maria Peters

Maria Peters is storytelling and personal impact trainer who has worked with corporate clients all over the world for more than 15 years. Maria is also an improvisation veteran, regularly producing and performing in sell out show ‘The Playground’, a Hoopla Impro night staring the best women improvisers in London. Her insights from this world allow her to help leaders communicate with spontaneity, authenticity and confidence, so that they may connect with any audience.

What is the key reason a team should undertake improv for business training?

Improv allows us to create an atmosphere of no judgement which is exceptionally valuable if we want a team to generate new ideas. This comes from the improvisers attitude towards making mistakes. As opposed to judging and stigmatising mistakes, we use them as opportunities for growth.

You can’t make any progress without making mistakes along the way. If you’re not making mistakes and moving out of your comfort zone you’ll never achieve any real success.

What’s the relationship between mistakes and innovation?

When we’re innovating, we’re going through uncharted waters and finding new things out. Because we’re in unfamiliar territory, mistakes will be inevitable. Companies shy away from the idea of making mistakes and yet if you asked a company if they wanted to be more innovative, which company would say no to that? If you want to innovate be prepared to fail a lot but you’ll also end up learning a lot too.

Innovation doesn’t just have to aim towards coming up with the next big idea, it can also mean we reevaluate our day to day operations. For example, looking at our own processes such as how can we be more efficient with X,Y or Z task? This is a very direct link towards the tangible goal of increasing our profits.

Katy Schutte, improv teacher

Katy Schutte

Katy Schutte is an author and critically acclaimed performer. Katy is a Funny Women finalist and both nominee and winner of the Brighton Festival Fringe Best Comedy Show award. She regularly tours around the US and Europe as a performer and trainer at dozens of festivals. Katy is also an acclaimed writer and currently writes as a contributor to Cards Against Humanity. She also starred in online educational series History Bombs which won a BAFTA. She is a veteran of business training, with clients such as Facebook, Google, IBM and TED speakers.

What is the key reason a team should undertake improv for business training?

While I think there’s lots of reasons, I think the ability to be present is really important so that companies actually listen to their customers. There is also the added value that colleagues will be more present in listening to each other for the purposes of team work.

Why is creativity useful in business?

I think creativity is useful regardless of whether that’s your specific role in a company. Being creative means that people are prepared to entertain possibilities, they’re ready to take on board someone else’s idea and run with it. A lot of ideas in business are stopped very quickly due to the knee-jerk ‘no’ reaction to things. Having the much more creative ‘yes and’ mindset can lead to some really innovative ideas.

What Improv’s potential role in a company?

I think there’s a lot to be said for support and looking out for each other. A team is obviously stronger if everyone’s working together for the same or similar goals, rather than being really competitive with each other. Being competitive might seem like a good idea in the short term but it doesn’t create a pleasant environment to work in for the long term.

Steve Roe

Steve Roe

Steve Roe is the co-founder and Director of Hoopla Impro and Hoopla Business. He previously worked as a Management Consultant at Accenture in their Communications & High Tech division. He is currently studying an MBA at The University of Sussex.

Steve has over 14 years experience of performing and teaching improvisation including with corporate clients like Google, Facebook, Accenture, Imperial College and ITV.

In 2010 Steve founded London’s first improvised theatre, recommended as the best place to see improvised comedy in London by The Daily Telegraph, Time Out, The Evening Standard and many more. He has also worked in television as an Associate Producer at channels including ITV, The History Channel, Pioneer, Lion, BBC 2 and Channel 4.

What is the key reason a team should undertake improv for business training?

Improv allows us to practice skills that you read about in any leadership or management book. These are skills that we don’t often get the opportunity to practice. Listening is one of the biggest of those skills. The ability to listen to your staff is of vital importance but most of the time you never really get to practice it. This means you won’t be listening as well as you could be and won’t be as empathetic as you could be, creating large gaps in your communication skills. Not only do we give you improv techniques for business, we also give you a chance to experience and practice in a safe place. We give you real human skills that are going to benefit you and your company.

Why is empathy important to businesses?

Everyone’s different. If you academically study topics such as motivation in a team and what it is that motivates someone to be in a job, there is no set answer to that. There’s loads of theories but the actual answer is different for every single person. Everyone has a different context and background. If you are able to listen and have empathy with a person, it gives you a greater understanding of where they’re coming from. It also means you can pick up on the times when co-workers are telling you one thing but deep down they’re trying to tell you something else. Often buried in a two page email is a message that is difficult to say directly such as ‘I feel undervalued’. Empathy and real listening allows you to pick up on that.

What’s improvs potential role in a company?

At a surface level business is made up of numbers and finance. However if we go deeper, business is actually made up of people working together. Improv helps you focus back on the people.

In a successful business, it’s impossible not to focus on the people. If you study management or leadership, it’s actually an investigation of how we deal with people. It’s ever changing, it’s never fixed and it’s more of an art than a science. It’s impossible to separate emotions from work, we don’t just become robots the second we’re in an office.

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