We do a lot of “culture growing” with our clients. Usually it’s growing a culture of collaboration, or creativity, or support.
We were recently engaged by a client who wanted to grow a culture of easily giving and receiving feedback. More specifically, horizontally to peers within teams, not to reports down the food-chain.
It was an interesting challenge. Can improv be a learning tool for giving and receiving feedback?
There were some obvious bridges: You need trust to give/receive feedback; improv grows trust. There’s an openness needed to give or receive feedback from a peer; improv practices being open and receptive. Improv practices accepting whatever comes your way and working with it (Yes, and...), so it might be a good tool in overcoming initial knee-jerk resistance to receiving feedback.
I guided the participants through a carefully tailored series of applied improv exercises. After each one we talked about how the skills embedded in the exercises could support giving and receiving feedback."
But y’know, to ride a bike, you gotta get on a bike.
So we jumped into some scaffolded exercises where they were actually asking for, and receiving feedback. It was easy.
What the improv had done was create trust and openness, and subliminally planted the seeds of seeing everything as an “offer” to be accepted and used. When you can break down barriers, build bridges, and create a shared vision, things get really easy.
AND… it’s good to remember that if you want to learn to ride a bike, you literally have to get on a bike. Not just talk about it.