Improvisational Innovation For Organizations, Products And Services

Improvisational Innovation For Organizations, Products And Services

Had a chance to see Laura Diehl show off her company’s improveit! techniques at a Chicago Business Marketing Association meeting.

Our group had a blast running through various fun and laughter-filled exercises using improv techniques to improve us by:

  • Paying attention to the words we say and HOW we say them.
  • Using nonverbal techniques such as eye contact, tone, body language and facial expressions to move a project forward
  • Listening to understand; not to respond.
  • Responding and acknowledges and others’ thoughts and ideas.

Why should care about this?

If you need to innovate and motivate and collaborate on new business strategies, products, services and relationships; Erin and her team get it, and got us revved up.

She did it with a room of 20 strangers this morning and I know can do it for you.

Enjoy this interview with Erin from an earlier post and contact her to get change going.

And by the way, Erin’s Clemson Tigers shut out my beloved Ohio State Buckeyes in the national football semifinals in January on their way to winning the national championship over the Alabama Crimson Tide. We still talk. GO TIGERS! O-H!

occasionally, you meet someone with a fascinating job who is doing some innovative work that is really valuable to organizations and really all endeavors.

That’s Erin Diehl, who has taken her love of acting and improvisational comedy into organizations like PepsiCo, United Airlines, Mesirow Financial, Groupon and the American Medical Association – an impressive list. And her company and team are making a huge difference in the cultures and abilities to change, to grow companies and brands, their people and business.

Her company is improve it! .Their mission is delivering high-energy, laughter-filled corporate team building workshops that incorporate improvisation teams and techniques and improvised performances at corporate events.

  • How did you get this started?

My love of the arts brought me here. I was lucky to land a role in the Off Broadway plan – the Awesome 80s Prom. From there, I took improv and comedy classes and graduated from Second Cityi.O. Theater and The Annoyance Theatre. I then took a job that required me to travel a lot and during that time I missed performing and improv. A friend invited me to a women’s business group called MsCareerGirl, which coaches woman on starting businesses. While I thought improv might have a role in corporate America, I wasn’t going to the event with that in mind. But, I was encouraged and motivated by the group and created a business plan while working as a recruiter. I then approached my boss about testing a program with a client. She said why not United Airlines. We did a team building program which succeeded and resulted in more business with the airline. It was really a springboard for us.

  • What type of organizations succeed with your programs?

We work best with organizations who are going through innovation and some cultural changes. We work effectively with leadership that recognize that improvisation can be valuable to innovation. It’s about the choice to trust and take risks, and especially relevant in the way they work. Improv can also be valuable in building rapport and fostering creative risk-taking. Our program, personalized for each client, are cohesive springboards for simulating meaningful conversations about culture innovation.

  • Are you workshops and sessions the same for each organization?

Our workshops are personalized and we apply proven structures to help get at the real issues. We spend lots of time learning an organization’s style, culture and goals. We then personalize a workshop or performance to address their challenges. We take the place of awkward and unreal role playing by team members. We don’t simply role play, we bring a dynamic and real-life performance that hits home on the problem in a provocative and humorous way. Our emphasis is on constructive criticism and our performance seems to inspire more creative thinking within the organization in a compelling, relevant and almost inspirational way. We become a conversation starter and change ignition while providing comfort and support. It’s valuable because our methods allow an organization to take a step back and positively receive what we are giving.

  • How is what you do affected by the technology in today’s business and how do adapt?

What we do is especially relevant in this era of technology where people are constantly buried in mind and spirit in their smartphones, tablets and all their screens. We communicate face to face so we effectively see body language, hear tone and foster listening. As you can imagine, technology offers none of these, which are so crucial to communications, understanding and respect within an organization, especially ones involving change. It’s like missing out on the smile when you answer the phone or when you get to that eureka moment.  That can only happen face to face. We find that our clients de-stress when they put down tech. In our workshops, we usually have a fishbowl for depositing cellphones. We love how that stimulates a group. Without this, we miss out on building rapport and teamwork, and giving and receiving
support. All our programs involve two-way conversations and positive choices.

  • What’s the biggest challenge you face in selling your services and how do you overcome them?

The challenge is this is a high-touch business, and I must get clients and prospects to trust me and touch “brains” so to speak. It is invaluable for them to witness our programs to appreciate what we do. This is about how to make you and your organization better. It takes time to build trust. And there is no way to overcome that. There is a lot of time helping a client or prospect feel invested so they can fully capitalize on this unique opportunity.

  • I hear you have a meaningful and impactful charity component to your business?

Yes, 5% of our profits goes to our charity partner, Funny Bones Improv. They provide volunteer improvised performances for sick children in hospitals across Chicago and New Orleans. So, when we work with companies, we let them know that not only are they receiving cost efficient, high quality engagements but they are giving back to a very worthwhile cause. This makes all of us very happy and motivated.

Good luck Erin and keep them laughing, improving, improvising and innovating!


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