Lifeplays takes the relationship building, co-creative skills of improv and applies them in forward thinking organizations. We offer transformative workshops in collaboration, innovation, team building, presentation skills, and leadership.
Have a really good time. Get great things done.
We believe that it’s through practice that teams become collaborative and bonded, innovators more innovative, presenters more compelling, and leaders more inspiring. To that end, our work is highly interactive, engaging, and yes, fun.
- Team Building and Collaboration: Transform a group of individuals into a team with mojo, trust, and the skills to keep that connection and flow.
- Innovation and Design Thinking: Create a culture where it’s safe for people to take risks and watch creativity flourish.
- Leadership: Lead in a way that colleagues feel valued, heard, inspired, and empowered.
- Presentation Skills: Experience being a relaxed, connective, and focused presenter (individually and in teams) even in high-stakes situations.
- Customer Service: "Find the Yes" and enjoy sustainably responsive interactions with clients.
LifePlays’ programs are highly participatory, and custom-designed for your group's goals and needs.
Sessions are typically half day, whole day, or multiple half days.
Call or write to see what we can design for you.
What it looks like:
Participants engage in a series of Applied Improv exercises which are followed by focused debriefs. Through the debriefs, we reveal and reflect on the new skills being practiced, and where they are relevant at work. Then, through role-plays and scenarios, people get meaningful practice in applying their new choices at work.
Some of the applied skills are:
- Listening in order to receive and build ("Yes, And")
- Focusing on the larger goal ("Serve the Scene")
- Supporting others ("Make your Partner look Brilliant")
- Welcoming new ideas and different points of view ("Defer Judgment")
- Communicating as equals ("Status Awareness" and "Give & Take")
- Taking a breath ("Taking a Breath")
Lasting change comes from committed practice. To that end, our sessions wrap up with participants identifying a doable, inspiring practice to use at work.
LifePlays’ Team Builds are fun, bonding, and loaded with tangible skills that your team can take back to work.
In pairs and small groups, participants engage in a series of super-fun Applied Improv exercises that are followed by short, focused debriefs. There’s tons of laughter and bonding, and through the debriefs, participants see how the skills practiced in the improv can be used to foster innovation, or build trust, or communicate as equals, or communicate more respectfully, or generally collaborate more effectively.
Our Team Builds are great for teams that work together on a daily basis, teams that work remotely and want to get to know one another more deeply, and for teams with new members to get more bonded and cohesive.
This is not just a really good time. It’s a really good time with lasting changes for your team. Fostering creativity/innovation. Building trust. Equality.
Team Builds are generally half-day (2 to 4 hours) and are custom designed for your team’s needs. Call or write to see what this would look like for your team.
Stanford Hospitals and Clinics
World Health Organization
Blue and Gold Fleet
Black Rock City LLC
"The LifePlays workshop was an unforgettable opportunity for interpersonal communication, building trust, and good old fashioned fun. It far exceeded my high expectations."
"I've been recommending LifePlays as a Team Build facilitator based on consistent positive feedback from participants for over a year now. I had only other people's feedback to rely on until my own team experienced LifePlays for ourselves on our recent Team Build. The success of the experience is very subtle; you don't realize how deep the work goes until you notice changes in the days/weeks afterward. I can now attest to the effectiveness of LifePlays personally, & do so without hesitation."
Training & Education Team Leader
Whole Foods Markets, Northern California region
"LifePlays gave us a tangible opportunity to gain a new perspective on some of the individual and team dynamics that were getting in the way of breakthrough thinking. LifePlays' contribution was like a breath of fresh air - their improvisational exercises with us widened the horizon of what we believed was possible and had direct application to the business issues we were working on."
Director of Learning and Development
“There were two things that struck me about your workshop: the open and non-judgmental nature of the activities allowed me to behave in a truly improvisational and spontaneous manner; and doing so in a group situation with work colleagues allowed all of us to enjoy the session and each other without being concerned with competing against one another, or being evaluated. As a result the experience was surprisingly refreshing and truly unique from any other of the numerous 'Team Building' activities in which I have participated. Thanksfor leading a unique and enjoyable experience.”
Gianfranco de Feo, Ph.D.
Sr. Director, Technical Business Development
NuGEN Technologies, Inc.
“I truly enjoyed our sessions and learned a LOT from our time together; stuff I use every day at work (and that's the truth).”
Executive MBA student at USF
“Improv training with LifePlays is an amazing experience. It awakens the creativity and imagination many of us haven't felt since childhood. Whether it's a group of 5 or 500, their lessons will ignite your ability to connect and collaborate with any audience.”
“Thank you for coming to our writers offsite. I've talked with many of the writers and they all really enjoyed and benefited from your session. Several of them also said that when they heard we were going to do improv, they almost made for the door, but ended up really enjoying it. I appreciate all the time you spent preparing for us and coming up with the game plan. The improv session was a huge success. Many thanks!”
“Thanks again for coming out! It was so great to hear people referring to stuff we did in the improv course throughout the rest of the event (and afterwards as well). Lots of people have told me how much they enjoyed the improv session, it was definitely a big win. You guys were all fantastic.”
“Just when you think that all you did at one of their sessions was to have fun, you discover that you have learned something profound!”
NamasteDirect, Ending Poverty One Loan at a Time
"Just wanted to say that our team was very pleased with the team building activity LifePlays provided for us during our offsite over the summer. They kept the team engaged and, needless to say, in stitches! The activities brought down inhibitions and encouraged collaboration throughout."
Market Research Project Manager
Wells Fargo Bank
5 STORIES OF TEAM BUILDING & COLLABORATION, LEADERSHIP, CUSTOMER SERVICE, INNOVATION, & PRESENTATION SKILLS
CASE STORY 1: TEAM BUILDING & COLLABORATION
The SVP of Corporate Communications was having an annual retreat with his direct reports from around the world. They often met via video-conferencing, but rarely in the same room at the same time.
Having experienced improv before, he knew that it would make a huge difference in creating a sense of team, and that they would have a really fun time.
There was tons of laughter, people learned more about the other team members, and they left with a specific exercise to begin their video-conferences to get everyone as present and connective as they were at the offsite.
CASE STORY 2: LEADERSHIP
The head of HR of a large chain saw an opportunity to take team building and infuse it with training. Several stores had newly-minted department managers who had worked their way up the ranks. These managers were well-respected for their experience, but they didn’t have solid leadership skills. We worked with each store’s management team to give them the leadership skills they needed to direct people collaboratively. The goal was to embody the “team” spirit that was an integral part of the company’s mission statement. We ended up working with over 15 of their stores.
CASE STORY 3: CUSTOMER SERVICE
A public library was shifting its customer service model from employees behind desks answering questions, to one of employees on the floor interacting with, and empowering the library patrons. This was a huge shift that necessitated a completely new way of interacting.
We started with simple improv exercises that gave them the awareness and skills to stay connected and in “discovery mode” when interacting. Not just answer the question, but to see what’s under the question—what else might be useful and relevant to the patron.
They went on to present their transformative improv at state-wide and national conferences.
CASE STORY 4: INNOVATION
A staff member in learning and development saw how improv skills could be used to promote innovation. For this specific work group, the issue wasn’t an inability to collaborate, but the team’s culture of being “safe” with their contributions during collaboration. We worked with this group to first introduce them to the skills of improv. We then helped the team apply these skills to liberate creative freedom (ie to explore “bad ideas”) which led to much more innovative solutions. We offered this workshop in the company’s internal university for over two years, and then codified it into a train-the-trainer program that is now being delivered internally worldwide.
CASE STORY 5: PRESENTATION SKILLS
The president of a design firm wanted to raise the level of the company’s presentations to prospective clients. They often presented in teams, and the desire was to create more equality in those presentations so that the presenters felt more equal (a company value), and also so that prospective clients would see a confident, unified team, not just one strong presenter with some quiet colleagues.
We worked with the teams on the improv skills of building on each other’s ideas (Yes, And…), and “give and take.” We then applied these skills to group presentations.
By the end of the session, the presenters were trading off seamlessly and felt confident, equal, and supported while giving team presentations.
CHRIS MILLER KICKS OFF BIG IDEAS FEST
The Big Ideas Fest is an exciting four-day annual conference held in Half Moon Bay, California. The conference is highly participatory and focuses on innovating education at all levels. LifePlays, along with IDEO and ISKME, co-designed the initial conference in 2009 and continue to be co-creators. We infused the program with improv exercises that make the Design Thinking process that’s the backbone of the conference, collaborative and connective. Here, Chris Miller kicks off the conference with an inspiring talk of how and why improv, and the skills embedded in improv, are an essential part of the conference.
LIFEPLAYS FACILITATES THE ANNUAL ASSOCIATION OF PROFESSIONAL DESIGN FIRMS' NATIONAL CONFERENCE
The APDF conference is a national meeting of designers and design firms to get together and share successes, best practices, and learn new skills. We came in to facilitate a session on brainstorming using skills from improvisational theater. We discussed key tenets of improv, practiced them through exercises, and then applied them to brainstorming and collaboration.
ANN SWANBERG AND CHRIS MILLER BRING APPLIED IMPROV TO COMRADE, A DESIGN AND STRATEGY AGENCY
We came into Comrade and facilitated a half-day workshop on presentation skills, and collaboration. A few weeks later, one of the “Comrades” put together this slideshow about the applied improv session, and how they applied it to their culture and work.
Somatic, insight-driven, focused sessions to practice (not just talk about) and implement game-changing new choices at work.
Chris Miller has been performing, teaching, and coaching improv for over 20 years. In 2001, he co-founded Lifeplays to bring the collaborative skills embedded in improv to innovative organizations. Chris teaches Creativity, Collaboration, and Consulting in the Executive MBA program at University of San Francisco. He co-designed The Big Ideas Fest (a conference dedicated to innovating education), has worked with Little Bets Labs (using Design Thinking to solve large intractable problems), and lots of other impressive stuff. Chris holds a degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. When not doing something improv-based, he might be rock climbing, boogie boarding, or playing music.
Rich Cox has worked as an actor/improviser, coach, consultant, photographer, designer, software engineer, marketing executive, E-commerce CEO, and musician. In 2003, he walked from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail. He challenges leaders, groups and companies to stretch farther and achieve more. He is a master coach and facilitator who empowers you to discover and develop your best self. Rich is a Lecturer at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business and teaches at the Stanford Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (d.school) and London Business School. Rich combines Art+Science+Design to bring disruptive elegance to business, organizations and ventures and create better people, teams, and cultures. As a consultant for LifePlays, Rich integrates improv tools and mindsets into his work on creativity, innovation and leadership on organizational stages around the world.
Ann Swanberg began her career in the field of modern dance as a founding member of the Kimobia Modern Dance Company. In her thirties, she moved on to complete an innovative teacher-training program in ESL and spent several adventurous years traveling and teaching English until a creative hunger returned her to the arts. Ann’s first improv class was, in addition to being wildly fun, an epiphany in presence, trusting “the unknown”, and cooperating spontaneously with others to create wondrous things together. After completing training at ImprovWorks and BayArea TheaterSports, Ann cofounded LifePlays in 2001 to bring the transformational life skills of improv to individuals, communities and innovative companies. She's also an active solo performance artist: Alive in Time! and The Seven Laws of Highly Miserable People
Debra Gerardi has been using applied improvisation for over 25 years to help individuals and organizations improve their ability to negotiate, engage in conflict, and develop as leaders. She works internationally and has provided improv skills training as far away as Saudi Arabia and Omaha, NE. As a Hudson Institute certified executive coach, Debra strives to promote the view that successful engagement in a dynamic and complex world requires that professionals work from the inside out by anchoring to their purpose, values, passion, and strengths. Debra has worked as a mediator and conflict specialist for over a decade helping groups move through barriers without damaging essential work relationships. Trained by Second City and Bay Area Theater Sports, Debra has performed and directed over 300 improv comedy shows and she integrates her experience on stage with her ability to help others access their authentic ability to be present and engage fully. Most importantly, she brings a spirit of fun and a creative energy to all of her work.