State the obvious to improve clarity of thought

by | Sep 30, 2013 | Blog | 0 comments

chicken or eggThe mindfulness movement serves up a “chicken or the egg” dilemma in the workplace.

Several colleagues who are trying to introduce mindfulness practices into their organizations were lamenting the pushback they’re getting.

Either people are too busy to pay attention to mindfulness—the mental discipline of training our mind to pay attention.

Or mindfulness is still thought to be on the fringes. It’s considered just another fad or form of meditation, not worthy of focus in business, even though science shows its value for our total health.

By stating the obvious, I’m practicing a form of mindfulness that’s grounded in improvisational theater and applicable to the workplace.

Unlike other actors, improv actors don’t use scripts. They practice giving up control and going with the flow. During a scene, once another actor or an audience member gives them a new word, action or prop, they respond appropriately.

To prepare for a performance, rather than memorize scripts, improv actors practice word and movement exercises among other things. By doing so, they’re also training their mind to be more mindful.

The whole point of improv is to be present in the moment. When you’re fully aware—that is mindful of those around you, especially your fellow players on the stage—you’re acting at the master level.

“Stating the obvious” is a powerful improv tool, according to David Alger, producing director at Pan Theater and founder of the San Francisco School of Copywriting.

In an email message this week to former and current improv students and fans, he explained that in improv when someone states the obvious “it often leads to an exploration of the moment and the unspoken issues between the characters in a scene.”

The authentic drama or humor emerges, rather than a scene or conversation that’s contrived and hard to sustain. And the audience is more engaged.

So what’s the connection to the workplace?

When we’re mindful at work, we can listen and think more clearly about what we’re experiencing in the moment. (See my blog post Take control of your thoughts for more on this.)

To train our minds to be more mindful, we can use a number of techniques, including improv.

For example, improv is helpful for:

  • Salespeople who want to be more attuned to their customers and clients. Dan Pink devoted an entire chapter to improvisation in his book To Sell Is Human. (See my blog post Learn to love selling in the year of the snake.)
  • Individuals who want to polish their presentation skills
  • Anyone who wants to improve their executive presence, including increasing their Emotional Intelligence, which is valuable for leading and participating in strategic initiatives

The point here isn’t to advocate for improv for all. Instead, it’s to encourage the greater adoption of mindfulness as a practice in the workplace.

Google leads the way, with its Jolly Good Fellow Chade-Meng Tan who’s also known as the Enlightenment Engineer. This new Huffington Post interview explains the benefits and describes how to get started.

Or you can “Google” mindfulness and get many other resources.

Forget about the chicken or the egg.

The more important question is: Are you ready to take part in the mindfulness movement?


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