Part of my work involves helping newly formed teams bond and align quickly for the purpose of creating innovative solutions. I’ve written before about how valuable Improv can be as a tool to help groups get to that place of high trust, keen understanding and a willingness to be experimental. Here is a link to another article on using Improv:

There is power in playing together. If you think about your relationship circle, those that you have played with share a special connection with you, don’t they? I enjoy playing with others. My husband and I played racquetball and tennis as colleagues before we dated. After seeing his character on the court, I knew he was a generous man, trustworthy and full of integrity. We see each other differently in a recreational setting. When you play a game of pick-up basketball, personality traits surface in a way they never would during a lunch meeting. When playing billiards at our neighborhood gatherings, I quickly was able to see the characteristics and temperament of my new neighbors.

Maybe this is why so much business is done on the golf course. Who would want to sign a big deal with someone who petulantly throws his clubs in the water after a bad shot? When we play together, we use a different set of skills and our innate childlike behavior comes to the surface.

So how do we facilitate play in a team of adults who need to co-create solutions? Since many of us are meeting virtually, Improv games are an easy entry to playing together for the sake of bonding, building trust, and being willing to think out loud with each other in service of the solutions we will generate. Here are some steps:

  • Start with the agreement of non-judgement and acceptance. No one will make fun of anyone else’s ideas.
  • Acknowledge that the purpose is twofold: to have fun, to build enough trust to boost group creativity quickly
  • Start with a simple story building game, like Flashback/Flashforward. One person starts with a scene. “Randy found a wallet.” The next person builds the next scene in the story by saying, “before that….” or “after that….” The story is built quickly with people adding elements.
  • After a set amount of time (10 minutes, for example), people share what they learned about each other. Comments are kept positive, again for trust building.

There is a number of games you can play at the beginning of meetings to get the group warmed up to each other, and it doesn’t require a lot of time. Usually, people are laughing within a minute and everyone enjoys the activity. Make it clear that there is no right or wrong way to contribute to a game like this as long as you keep the energy moving in one direction. No criticizing or saying things like, “that would never happen!” Improv is built on the concept of “yes, and” layering your idea on the player previous to you as quickly as possible. This helps build synapses and the confidence to create on the fly together.

We learn a lot through non-verbal play, so if your team can get together for a table tennis tournament or volleyball game, that speeds the process. If you are a virtual team, find ways to play and interact via the web that allows the same kind of bonding.

As we come together and make play part of our way of being together, we shorten the time required to feel close to each other, to take risks in sharing our thoughts and ideas. Ultimately, the solutions we arrive at will come easier and more quickly as we bond in this way.

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