Let’s Play 5 Things

In the world of the ComedySportz Show, 5 Things is often a centerpiece game. A player is sent out of the room and the audience is polled by the referee for five active activities that they’ve actually done. The ref then changes out elements of the activity to make it really difficult – like skydiving out of an airplane made of helium Jell-O piloted by the band One Direction, using semaphore flags as a parachute.

The guesser is called back on to the playing field and is given 4 minutes to do the activities – with clues provided by their team using gibberish and mime. It’s an amazingly difficult game that showcases communication skills, cooperation and the ability to fail gloriously and graciously. 5 Things is also fun to play and watch.

Today’s post pulls together 5 different thoughts from blogs and articles folks have sent me. Your job is to guess how they are connected.

1. It’s a Post Called “5 Things You Must Do to Keep Your Best People”

Peter Economy talks about important things like encouraging risks, giving people advancement opportunities and encouraging play.

2. Focus is the Next Big Thing

We spend a portion of each workshop we lead playing games that reflect on the importance of focusing on what and who is in front of you. Improv performers talk about “being present”; in today’s hyper-information world, just being present sets you apart and gives you a huge advantage over the pack. Dr Marla Gottschalk refers to a Stanford study that shows multi-taskers at a disadvantage in focusing on the task at hand. Here is the link to the study, in case you are too busy to read Marla’s post.

3. The Only Woman in the Room

Ellen Leanse writes about the inherent sexism in high tech. I’ve worked in high tech sales and marketing, and I’ve seen these forces in action. Historically, it’s also been a problem in improvisation. It’s getting better in many groups and many places, but there’s still work to do.

More interesting to me, in the context of today’s post, is this: what opportunities are we missing when we surround ourselves only with people who share our backgrounds, culture and characteristics?

4. Talent Selection Instead of Talent Development

John O’Sullivan writes about coaching in “serious” youth sports; this interests me partly because I coach U-14 Rec Girls Soccer and partly because the same concepts apply in running an improvisational theater group. I try to think “long game” in both areas.Read this and think about the company(s) you work for and with. Are you able to think “long game”?

5. Motivating Senior Employees to Help with Onboarding 

Judith Shervin’s post is on point and practical. Your front-line leaders know what new people need to know now. Everybody wins, and a small sacrifice in the short game reaps benefits in the long game.

How many point did you get in today’s game of 5 Things? You are in control of the scoring – you make the rules. What connects these items of employee engagement?

Opportunity.

Patrick Short is busy developing a certification program Applied Improvsation for CSz Worldwide. As in ComedySportz, the points matter.

LEGO

What do you learn from building with LEGO?

They’re just pieces of plastic that kids play with.

In April, I participated in a workshop led by Aneta Key, Chief Executive Muse from AEDEA Partners, LLC (aedeapartners.com) in the Bay Area. One portion of it was devoted to building a “library” using LEGO pieces. A group of us had to share a bag of bricks and other parts, while each quickly designing and constructing our own library.

  • We had to begin and complete the project with very little instruction
  • Each of us had to decide what was meant by a “library”
  • We had to use what was in front of us
  • We had to deal with sharing limited resources
  • Some of us even had to negotiate trades for the pieces we needed

Following the building, we were given some time to “present” our designs within our groups, and then to respond to each others’ presentations.

In my own small group, we had interiors, exteriors, whole libraries, parts of libraries and a a representation of a “digital library” – someone built a computer server with their LEGO pieces.

  • What different approaches did people take?
  • What can we learn about people from the approach they took?
  • What did each of us bring to the process?
  • What did each person focus on in their presentation?

It took me a couple of months to get my LEGO kits together; I convinced my teenage son to part with his bucket of LEGO pieces (delivered to my office with a laugh). After a couple of hours of sorting and dividing, I headed off to the store for a set of “plain” bricks to give the sets enough pieces so that 4-6 people could share them. (Do you know how hard it is to find plain LEGO bricks?  If you want to build Hogwarts, you are in business, but just old school bricks are hard to find.) I persevered, and found a 650 piece set. Later, I found out about a used LEGO store, so Alex Falcone and I went there after a nearby corporate workshop and bought a bunch of flat pieces – bases, if you will.

So I’m set – we have 8 big Ziploc baggies with a variety of pieces in them.

I’ve used this exercise 5 times in the last week with wildly different groups:

  • College textbook salespeople
  • Property management maintenance guys (yes, ALL guys)
  • A gathering of the Applied Improvisation Network Portland Local Group
  • High school grads in a “pre-work” program sponsored by the public schools
  • Middle schoolers in our CSz Summer Camp

ain

In one amazing week, I’ve witnessed colleges, apartment complexes, restaurants, places to work and tree houses being built. Many tree houses included pools, flying ability, an aquarium and amazing ways to climb aboard. My favorite college looked like a microscope. One of the apartment complexes featured an unpaved part of the parking lot – “we haven’t paved that part yet.”

All we did was play with LEGO, but we also learned about:

  • Imagination
  • Cooperation
  • Making do with what we’ve got
  • Recapturing a sense of play (even a couple of middle schoolers needed help with that)
  • Just starting and seeing what happens
  • Designing improvisationally
  • Failing often
  • Presentation skills
  • Building on others’ ideas
  • Sharing experiences from our selling stories
  • What’s most important to us in doing a good job
  • Gibberish skills – expressing our design without real words and seeing what we’re able to communicate

Is that all?

What have you learned?

camp

Patrick Short has been teaching applied improvisation for business since 1989, used Duplos (large, little kid LEGO pieces) in an exercise he’s always called, “LEGO”, and now he has a naming problem. Follow him on Twitter @patrickshort4