4 Brainstorming Tips – Using Improv

Brainstorming TipsTips to Super-Charge your Brainstorming Sessions

You set the meeting, gather everyone in the room and sit back ready for the creative magic to happen – except it doesn’t. Been there, done that.

Not only can a typical brainstorming session end up being a waste of time, but invariably, if these sessions are often unproductive, there’s a good chance they’re a reflection of a strained team culture, and they’re contributing to a cycle of negative interaction.

Here are 4 brainstorming tips you can use in your next session to unblock the flow of ideas – (while also helping build a stronger, more supportive team).

 

Brainstorming Tip #1) Define Goals and Identify the Problem

This one isn’t specifically an improv-based strategy, but we’ve found it to be an important first step to set-up a successful brainstorming session.

Before the meeting (and not five minutes before…more like a day in advance), send everyone a clear outline that lays out the purpose of the session. What’s the focus? What problem are you trying to solve? Ask the team to challenge the premise of the problem (question the question).

 

Brainstorming Tip #2) Saying Yes is Great…Saying “Yes, and” is Better

You knew it was coming. The concept of “Yes, and” is foundational in the world of improv and it should be the cornerstone to every brainstorming session.

First, everyone in that room needs to be ready to say “yes”. Saying yes to ideas gets you moving. It’s the acknowledgement and acceptance of an idea, and sets up an environment of support.

With “yes”, as the acceptance of an idea, the “and” becomes the force multiplier – it’s the building upon an idea. All brainstorming needs a “Yes, and” approach to be effective. Not every idea is going to be one you keep, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised where “Yes, and” takes you.

(“Yes, and” is an activity we focus on when we work with clients in the area of Team Building – Team Building in Denver).

 

Brainstorming Tip #3) Save Critical Thought for a Later Date
No one wants to spend time in a meeting, let alone a brainstorming session with the “No, but” person (or even “Yes, but” person for that matter)

It’s very natural for many people to immediately apply critical thought to a new idea. And there’s a time and place where real critique will be needed…that time isn’t during the brainstorming session.

Don’t critique an idea before giving it some airtime and building on it. Being critical right out of the gate not only undermines any chance of that idea reaching its full potential, but it also creates an environment where team members become self-conscious, hold back, feel uninspired and unsupported – shutting down the flow of ideas.

Save the critiquing for stage two (or three).

 

Brainstorming Tip #4) There are no mistakes

Pretty straight-forward. Don’t self-edit. Let the ideation flow without feeling there’s a wrong suggestion, or contribution. Go for it.

 

There you have it. With these tips, brainstorming will be a meeting your staff looks forward to. And just as importantly, they’ll lead to great ideas that elevate your organization.

 

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We work with groups in the area of facilitating Brainstorming and Ideation sessions through our corporate workshops.

If you’d like to learn more, contact us, or you can read more here – Corporate Workshops in Denver

Email us at [email protected] or call 303-578-0079 (extension 6).

Presentation Skills Workshop – Denver

Presentation Skills WorkshopDenver, Colorado – Whether you’re delivering a sales presentation, running a marketing meeting, pitching a new product to management, or addressing your team in a weekly meeting – an improv-based Presentation Skills Workshop will help you succeed in any presenting scenario.

As an organization that creates Presentation Skills Workshops, we have a lot of experience honing in on the key skills, tips and techniques that have an immediate impact.

If you are doing some research, you’ll likely notice a common thread pretty quickly in the Presentation Skills workshops offered – all of them, at some level, will be teaching you the rules and techniques of improvisation. As an improv theatre company, these are skills that we use as the foundation for our corporate workshops (and put on display every night on the Voodoo Comedy Playhouse stage – Improv Theatre in Denver).

Areas we focus on in our customized Presentation Skills Workshop include:

  1. Thinking on your feet: an important skill in any presentation setting, but this is particularly valuable in the sales sector.  Being comfortable “going off script” and truly reacting in the moment, handling questions and objections comfortably and confidently and creating authentic interactions can be a game-changer.
  2. Connecting with your audience. Quickly building rapport with an audience is what we do every night on stage. It’s also an important part of presenting, whether you’re speaking to one person, or 700.
  3. Telling your story. Knowing how to craft a story and have your message hit home when presenting is an invaluable tool. Emotion creates a connection and telling a compelling story is what will drive those positive emotions.

As well as:

  • Expressing ideas clearly and confidently.
  • Handling the unexpected
  • Becoming more self-aware when presenting
  • Active listening and being in the moment
  • Projecting confidence in any situation

These skills and more are covered in our presentation skills workshops. Not only will your team leave with a number of real takeaways they can use in their professional (and personal) lives, but they’ll have a lot of fun.

Contact us to learn more about our Presentations Skills Workshops and how we can design one for your team.

[email protected], or call 303-578-0079 (extension 6).

(Also, if you’re looking for an impactful Team Building experience, check out our popular options – Unique Team Building in Denver)

3 Must-Read Team Building Books

With the holiday season upon us, we’ve poured over the business and leadership books out there (well not really poured over – more like browsed) and came up with a few Team Building Books that will make for great reading, whether as a gift for someone on your list, or for yourself.

We do a lot of work with teams through our Corporate Workshops in Denver (including our Unique Team Building Workshop), focusing on strategies and principles that create productive teams that enjoy working together and supporting each other.

“Teamwork is always at the heart of great achievement,”
– New York Times best-selling author John C. Maxwell

With that, here are three books that provide valuable tips for building successful teams.

Team Building Books

Team Building Books“The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups” – by Daniel Coyle

As a big fan of Adam Grant’s, when he recommended Coyle’s book, that was good enough for us. Coyle, a New York Times bestseller, looks at teams that have enjoyed sustained success (think the Navy’s SEAL Team Six and the San Antonio Spurs) and breaks down the “why” to this success. Why do they work so well together? How do you create a culture that produces this level of success? What key skills are needed to elicit group cooperation?

Many of the strategies and concepts Coyle outlines are very familiar to us here at Voodoo Comedy Playhouse (and other improv-based organizations that offer similar workshops…including our friends at Dad’s Garage with their Team Building workshops in Atlanta) and the work we do with our clients.

“Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility” – by Patty McCord

McCord is the former head of HR at Netflix (or the Chief Talent Officer according to her title). She has a really interesting and innovative take on company culture, motivating staff, and creating great teams. Throughout the book she shares her experiences at Netflix (and other jobs) throughout Silicon Valley – but these ideas are not uniquely applicable only to the tech sector. There’s a lot of great info in here for anyone currently navigating corporate culture, or an entrepreneur, or a student about to embark on your career.

The Power of a Positive Team: Proven Principles and Practices that Make Great Teams Great – by Jon Gordon

Okay, this isn’t the deepest of books (which means you can get through it pretty quickly), but it is full of real life examples and tools you can use. The “we before me!” mantra is easy to identify with, as are his approach to framing difficult conversations from a positive place, empathy’s role in the building strong teams, as well as shared beliefs.

There you have it – three Team Building books to educate and inspire.

 

Voodoo Comedy Playhouse is a Denver-based improv theatre company that works with organizations of all sizes in the areas of collaboration and communication (Team Building Workshops), as well as sessions focusing on shifting corporate culture, being a more agile team and thinking on your feet.

Corporate Workshops in Denver

Corporate Workshops in DenverWe love creating impactful corporate workshops in Denver (and throughout the State) with organizations of all sizes, from a wide variety of sectors.

“a superb job putting on a workshop for my team…. every single person was talking about how much they enjoyed the experience…so fun, educational, though-provoking, empowering…my team is better because of it.”
– Patrick Borus, Chipotle Mexican Grill

Whether it’s helping build stronger teams (increasing collaboration and effective communication), improving a sales team’s ability to deliver presentations and think on their feet, creating a culture that is agile, managing change and embracing the unpredictable, or a focus that is unique to your group, we have the experience to design a corporate workshop that produces results, based on your vision.

We had a group coordinating changes across policies, processes, tools, and culture, and we were looking for a group activity that would enable us to have fun while also reinforcing how best to work with multi-functional, large-scale groups. After spending time talking with Steve, we knew he understood how to take these concepts and translate learning into fun activities. We certainly did not know what to expect, and our team was a mixture of folks who were “very nervous” and “can’t wait to get started.” Everyone learned something and were still talking about it the next day.
– Leann Dittman, Comcast Cable Services

(Learn more about our corporate workshops in Denver, including our popular Unique Team Building Workshop package)

As we did with Leann at Comcast Cable Services and Patrick with Chipotle, we consult with our clients prior to our corporate workshops, gathering information about their team, their vision, goals, etc.

Using this information we design your workshop, which will usually be two to three hours (although we can customize for other lengths of time).

Your team will have a great time together, sharing a lot of laughter, as you learn new ways to collaborate, create, communicate, innovate, support each other, etc. working with us in these interactive sessions.

“Thanks for an incredible event! Really rave reviews from the team.”
– Dan Frailey, RuMe

Get in touch to find out more details on what we can custom design for your team.

Email us at [email protected] or call 303-578-0079 (extension 6).

Team Building Activities in Denver (or a Team Outing?)

Team Building Activities in DenverLooking for Team Building Activities in Denver, or are you seeking more of a Team Outing?

Is there a difference you may ask?

Well, actually yes there is.

Both are definitely in the same neighborhood, but quite distinctly on different streets.

First let’s start with the similarities:

  • Both team building and a team outing can add a lot of value for a group.
  • In most instances, the organizer wants the experience to be fun, on some level, for their group.
  • Most team outings are centered around an activity in which the social component is a main focus (organized time spent together).

Think bowling, catching a ball game, painting class, rock climbing, go-karting, trampoline park (for the more adventurous and active teams), or wings, drinks and Monday night football. The goal of connecting the group by spending time together in a recreational setting (i.e. out of the office) can be accomplished in an unlimited number of ways.

Team Building Activities

While again there is certainly an overlap, most team building activities have a different approach. The goals and benefits are structured into the activity (and facilitated by experienced professionals).

We do a lot of Team Building activities in Denver with groups that were initially seeking more of a team outing experience. However, after talking with the organizer, it’s very common to discover that the outcome they were looking for is more suited to a team building activity.

A team outing (or multiple team outings) can be a lot of fun and help connect a group, but they’re not specifically designed to provide techniques, strategies and a template that fundamentally increases the way a team collaborates, communicates and supports each other.

(Check out more info on our Team Building workshops – Unique Team Building in Denver)

Here at Voodoo Comedy Playhouse, we design team building workshops that definitely check the “fun” box, while engaging your group during a customized session that focuses on your team dynamic – from strategies to increase the way you collaborate with each other, as well as across departments, to unleashing your group’s ability to innovate and create together, to techniques that will shift the way everyone communicates with each other, all leading to a more productive, supportive, happier team.

Again, these are facilitated workshops custom designed to your team and workplace.

If you’d like to learn more about what we offer in our Team Building Workshops, connect with one of us and we’d be more than happy to chat.

Team Building Activities in Denver

If you would like to hear a bit about our custom-designed team building sessions, or even how we can create a fun team outing (including watching improv and grabbing a few drinks with your team) connect with us and we’ll be happy to chat.

Email us at [email protected], or call 303-578-0079 (extension 6).

Team Building Ideas in Denver

If your group is looking for Team Building ideas in Denver, we have a few suggestions that could be a good fit.

Whether it’s a fun reward-type of experience, or you feel your team could benefit from an activity that motivates them to collaborate at a higher level, or you’re hoping to build trust amongst the group (or all of the above), there are a number of options that check the boxes.

Team Building Ideas in Denver

Team Building with the Voodoo School of Improv:

As Denver’s leading improv-based corporate team building organization, we’ve been working with companies for years, custom designing memorable team building experiences. Our unique approach will not only have your team creating a lot of laughter together and having a blast, but they’ll also learn techniques that increase their ability to collaborate, to be a more positive and flexible teammate, to be more adaptable to change, embracing the unpredictable and thriving while “thinking on your feet”.

You can read more – Unique Team Building in Denver

A Night of Laughter

Another unique team building outing we offer is bringing your group down to our theatre to catch an improv show (we’re in the heart of LoDoVoodoo Comedy Playhouse running shows five nights a week). There’s something special that happens when a team laughs together. Laughing together is always a great way to ensure a team outing is a success.

Come a little early, grab a drink and hang out before heading in.

Here are few more team building ideas in the Denver area that could be a great fit!

Colorado Mountain MeadowVolunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC)

Get outside and get to work helping the local environment. Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC) has corporate volunteer projects that allow your team to roll up the sleeves, head out into nature and give back as stewards of Colorado’s natural resources. It could be as close to home as cleaning up a local park, or heading out to the grasslands or into the mountains, there are many opportunities available.

Cheers

Consider a wine tasting tour with a visit to The Infinite Monkey Theorem (if your team is all over 21 of course). You’ll get a tour of the winery, an education on the winemaking process and get to try out up to five different types of vino.

United Way Denver

Another opportunity to give back within a team building experience. Volunteer Days of Service with the United Way combines community service with the opportunity to build camaraderie while getting outside the office.

 

There you have it – so the next time you’re bouncing around ideas to get the team together, skip the after-work “Happy Hour”…well maybe not skip, but rather add it to one of the above (yes, even the wine tasting, but be responsible of course) and try out something new, unique, fun and hopefully impactful.

Student Guest Blog: Level 5 Week 1

What does the suggestion bulldozer bring to mind? To an intrepid tribe on a Monday evening it was evocative of smoking your parents’ cigarette butts and trying to be an adult, or seriously dysfunctional relationships, as well as radical environmentalism. What about grapefruit? Does it make you think of hail, or keeping your nuggets clean? A sampling of the gems we discovered in our first week of not only studying but also doing and being the form known as the Harold.

The Harold

Whenever I hear about The Harold, it always makes me think of the question, “What about the Maude?” Maybe the Harold becomes the Maude if you do the Harold enough. More on that later, much later, maybe in a few years. To keep it short, Harold is the improv form developed and championed by Del Close. And if you do not know who Del Close is by now, then you probably haven’t read this far.

Anyhow, it is an honor to take level 5 with Steve Wilder, the grand pooh-bear of Voodoo (not self-appointed, just a label I came up with). Having had a variety of experiences with instructors at Voodoo, I felt almost immediately gelled with Steve’s manner and energy. Perhaps it’s just me, and I feel more comfortable about improv in general so it’s possible I am more gel-worthy than in prior classes. But he seems to have an intelligent twinkle and smirk that conjures a sage-like sensibility, and his belly laugh can instill confidence in the meekest of performers.

As I sat with Steve mid-break, I told him I still have trouble with self-doubt. He said he had done improv for ten years and still felt like he still was a novice. The good teacher is always a student, and the student always teaches the teacher, among other things. He does not carry the posture of a know-it-all, and his curiosity about learning is apparent.

For example, the suggestion horticulture was given and stimulated a description of chopping down a tree, which led to mention of something called a “back-cut”. Steve inquired more about what a back-cut was and how it was important in chopping down the tree. I pondered how getting absorbed in something like the back-cut adds layers to the improv experience, both for the performers and the audience.

Attention to these details in improv make it so rich and therapeutic. As an instructor the feeling I get from Steve is one of discovery and wonder through fascination, immersion—and doing.

He may not be an expert lumberjack but knowing much more in the improv realm, Steve took the lead in sharing his insight on the Harold. In our first class we focused on the Opener:

The Opener

Steve says it is very important to get the opener down. Really nailing the opener makes the rest of the Harold easier.

Here are some general takeaways from the Opener class with Steve:

  • Start the opener with high energy to engage the audience; the energy can subside and increase again throughout the opener, but high energy is generally better
  • Get three ideas for scenes from the opener
  • Avoid character development in the opener
  • Try to develop away from the suggestion; the suggestion is just the starting point
  • It’s easy to start binging on virtual food in the opener and get stuck in food and eating instead of growing to concepts.
  • Commitment: even if the thing it is not funny or seems like it sucks, if the audience sees that we are committed to it, it will work.

We tried out a few different types of openers.

The Monologue

Here are some tips and takeaways from the monologue:

  • It’s better to share from true personal experiences to avoid getting into character in the opener.
  • It’s ok to tap out someone mid share in the monologue if you want to go with an idea; especially if someone is slowing down in their monologue; this helps to keep the energy high.

Scene Painting

Not an opener I’d tried before. Here are some takeaways from scene painting:

  • Pay respect to the objects in the scene
  • Avoid having humans (characters) in the scene
  • It’s ok to build on the last object or description when scene painting.

Example: we started with a stack of cases of freeze dried food and beer. A propane grill and a vent extending from it into a wall. Freeze-dried hamburger patties sat next to the grill. A table stood next the grill with a bible opened to revelations. A loaded shotgun lay on the table next to the bible.

Flocking

I dread flocking; it seems so dorky and awkward and theater geeky, but somehow I’m growing into liking it. Takeaways:

  • Start by mimicking the last action / sound
  • Let changes happen; try not to force them
  • Avoid marching; its really hard to get the rhythm out once it starts.
  • Add words or phrases for ideas but not for characters

Example: the suggestion “cruise ship” started with horns and led to sinking motions to shouting out “Jack!” to shouting out random names, from freezing cold to the Oscars and envelopes.

We didn’t get to try the “organic opening” (It makes me think of either an orifice of a free-range chicken, or the debut of a health food restaurant), although I’m sure we will have the opportunity in the weeks to come as the Harold unfolds before us.

And remember kids, keep your powder dry and your nuggets clean!