Improv and Improving at the Compose Unremoting

At the Compose Unremoting, we’ve been reserving our mornings for some intensive bonding and learning. If you do an unremoting, where you bring all your people together to work together for a week, then it is essential that you maximize the group’s time together. For Compose, together as a company after rendezvousing, we took on the challenge of improv for improving how we work.

For this, we brought on the fine services of CSz Portland which specializes in bringing insight to group dynamics through improvisation. They run a course based around the idea of “Applied Improvisation” and we'd signed up for a session of that.

One of the common worries people have about using something like improv as a tool for this is that it can be embarrassing to be asked to perform – and it’s a reasonable worry. Our improv practitioner, Patrick Short, soon put that concern to rest by announcing there’d be no performing and with that out of the way, we moved on to the “Applied Improvisation”.

What followed was a wonderfully communal experience. Although there was no performing, there was a lot of moving around alone and in groups, pointing at each other, saying “Yes” a lot and asking people to talk – and listen very carefully – to each other.

Each exercise explored a different element of communication and team work by demonstrating, through the participation of everyone, what could go wrong and then discussing what actually happened. Another part of the improvisation came from Patrick. He took how the exercises between us played out and crafted observations and the next exercises based on that making the entire session dynamically responsive to our participation.

A few hours later we were done and the results were surprisingly different from what many of us at Compose have experienced at other companies when they tried to train around communications and culture. Rather than resenting the previous hours, we were energised and ready to talk about how we could build on what we’d learned. In turn, that made the rest of the day working together so much more effective.

Patrick specifically noted at the end of the session that during the session he couldn't actually identify who the "boss" was, something that was normally easy for him. We were, as a group, somewhat pleased by this as it validated our being a flat organisation with no management hierarchy in the organisation. It meant that we didn't just say it, it showed in how we worked together.

As the week goes on, we have other morning events organised to bring the team together in different ways. What’s most important here is the idea that you focus on bringing your team together. It’s what we’ve been doing at the Compose Unremoting and it pays off immediately and in the longer term.

Photo Source: Dj Walker-Morgan