AIN12: Shifting Resignation to Empowerment Workshop

Rebecca Stockley and Matt Smith led one of the most engaging workshops I attended at the Applied Improvisation Conference. I never totally connected the title “Shifting Resignation to Empowerment Workshop” to the activity until I slept on it for a few days and then was treated to a little “neuron connecting” via Viv McWaters.

Viv blogged about the learning intersection between improvisation and facilitation. This probably was the door that allowed my thinking to go a bit further than a fascination with an applied improv method. In “Facilitation Tips for Improvisers” Viv gently reminds both sets of practitioners how much they know, add and, perhaps, don’t know about the other’s practice. I love how she teased out the mutual learning that is possible at the intersection of these practices and for me, thinking about how and where to use an improv exercise or method needs that practice-boundary-crossing.

Then, after I drafted the first part of this post, Viv posted about the exercise. That made this blog post easier. Thanks, Viv.

Bacl to Rebecca and Matt. They shared three improv exercises to help shift thinking, to get out of that “stuck” spot. To see possibility.

They started with “Invocation,” part of a more complex style of long form theatre improvisation known as “Harold!” (I’ll let you read about that yourself!)  After a little searching, it seems that the Invocation is often uses as an opening for longer form improv. But we were interested in the application of this form in business or organizational life. Here is how Viv summarized it (Viv, I hope it is ok I’m borrowing so boldly!)

Here’s how it works. You start with an inanimate object. Anything really – a hat, a salt shaker, a cup,a book…

There’s four rounds. In groups of say four people, you can throw comments in at each round. It’s okay to talk over each other, to jump in. The idea is to keep the comments coming. There’s no need to incorporate other people’s ideas, although that might happen. Anyone can move on to the next round whenever they choose. Once one person moves on, everyone else moves on too. Whether they’re ready or not.

Basically you invoke the object as follows:

It is…

You are…

Thou art…

I am…

You can discover things about yourself through objects. You can also do an invocation on fear, age, stress or something else you are wrestling with.

We then moved on to Naikan, which comes from a Japanese reflective process. The form is:

What have I received from ______ (name the person, thing, group)?
What have I given _____?
What troubles and difficulties have I caused ____?

Clearly my upbringing in a guilt centric religion caused me to first experience this as GUILT GUILT GUILT! But I do appreciate it can, in its deeper form, be really useful. I would not use it in a meeting. No way. No where!

But then they gave us a mashup between the Invocation and Naikan, the Nipon Invocation   and this one was more accessible to me and thus I can see using it. In fact it is already slipping into a few designs. Here is how Viv described it:

And for people completely out of touch with their calling, here’s another one that Rebecca and Matt mashed up. It too is powerful. In fact, I think I like it even more. Rebecca and Matt demonstrated this as a pair. I think it could also be done in small groups, or individually. It’s a way of using improvisation to go deep with people – or with yourself.

Let’s say the subject is ‘talent’, and I’m using this on myself. Here’s the script for the Nipon Invocation:

My (talent) is…

To serve my (talent) I…

My (talent) has served me by…

The trouble I have caused my (talent) is…

Viv, I am your (talent) and I…
Viv is experienced with improv, so I think she “saw” the application before I did. I had to experience the form, then muddle on it.

Matt and Rebecca role modeled this form so brilliantly, I was a bit awed and intimidated by the high performance standards — both are seasoned improv actors.  But they assured us that “real people” do this to great results.

While I still don’t quite see the traction for these methods in shifting from resignation to empowerment, I REALLY do see their application in unpeeling something to get at it from different perspectives.  As I said, I plan to use this.

I love the APPLIED part of this whole improv thing! (Next step, take another improv workshop here in Seattle. Soon!)

Wholeness: AIN12 & the Museum of the African Diaspora

As part of the Applied Improvisation Network World Conference in San Francisco, we divided up for three “field trips” on the first day. I was on the “Jazz” trip.

21 of us headed off to the Museum of the African Diaspora. We were given a fairly typical introduction to the museum and about the African Diaspora. But things started getting interesting when we viewed a short film about Howard Thurman, who talked about, among other things, the importance of being whole. (Read some of his quotes here.) This had so many layers of resonance for me, not just in terms of improv, but in every aspect of life.

Then we entered the current exhibition, Choosepaint!chooseabstraction! Celebrating Bay Area Abstract Artists.

From the moment I entered the gallery I was gobsmacked by color, emotion, ideas, layers… and eventually, some sense of wholeness. I’ve always loved abstract art.

As I walked from one canvas to the next the power of both thought, intention and improvisation came across. Reading the artists quotes about the paintings, reading the titles, seeing that many of these artists were born in the 40’s was incredible. I regret not writing down more than a few of the quotes, after some assurance from the staff that they were online. Alas, they are not. No catalog either. But the resonance was around things such as “letting the paint speak,”

Arthur Monroe wrote:

“If I had not been sanwhiched between jazz and Abstract Expressionists, I would have lost my way and may chances to paint.”

Museum of the African Diaspora :: Gone, 2005 by Squeak Carnwath
Museum of the African Diaspora :: Gone, 2005 by Squeak Carnwath

While our host from the museum did some Q&A to elicit the connection between this art and improvisation, I kept circling the room. I was so moved.

What an interesting start to a four day gathering on Applied Improvisation. MoAD gave me insights to my own practice of facilitation, communities and graphic facilitation. About wholeness, about being in the present, about color and beauty in every sense of the word. Simply Amazing.

Chris Corrigan on Group Size in Innovation and Open Design

In our week three of the Project Community course, we are talking about group size. While I was at the fabulous Applied Improvisation Network World Conference this last week, I got to ask the fabulous Chris Corrigan for his insights to share with the class. The fabulous payoff is in the last 2 minutes or so!

via Chris Corrigan on Group Size in Innovation and Open Design – YouTube.

Inspiration from Jennifer

Weeks ago when I started my KM Singapore prep, Jennifer Dalby offered me some great inspiration for my talk. She also pointed me to her great new, inspired Experience | Portfolio.

There is so much to learn here about sharing and digital identity, but I wanted to point out one particular thing. The “Connections” section where Jennifer invited her connections to make themselves a bit more visible as part of her portfolio. In a beautiful world, our network connections speak volumes about us. Brava, Jennifer! The responses you received sure are a great community indicator!


Infographics of Social Commerce Psychology

I just had to share these – they are so cool from TabJuice. They were some of the inspiration for my KM Singapore talk last week! Transpose them out of a commerce setting to other group settings… lots of ideas!

Social Commerce Psychology of Shoppers

via Social Commerce Psychology of Shopping [INFOGRAPHIC].