The 4MAT instructional design model guides the learner through an experiential learning process which begins with concrete experience. In our 4MAT train the trainer and instructional design courses, we find it is easy for trainers to get stuck in a rut of over-using reflective training openings that sound like, “Reflect on a time when…”
At ASTD ICE 2011 in Orlando, I experienced a session being led by the Second City improv troupe focused on how to use improvisational techniques in training design and delivery. Improv is a great way to create shared concrete experience through simulations. Here are some examples shared:
Improv #1: Celebrating Contribution
A learner, “Bob”, is invited to come to the front of the room. The facilitator introduces Bob and sets up the improv by sharing that he will be asking Bob a series of questions. The facilitator explains that the audience’s job is to demonstrate loud, enthusiastic applause to anything and everything that Bob shares. The interaction sounds like:
Facilitator: What is your name?
Audience: Wild applause
Facilitator: Why did you choose this session?
Bob: It was closest to the Starbucks.
Audience: Wilder applause
Facilitator: What do you hope to learn from this conference?
Bob: How to make my boss think I am a training rock star.
Audience: Applause reaches decibel level equivalent to a rock concert and someone pulls out a lighter
Imagine you demonstrated this in the front of the room with “Bob” and then invited table groups to mirror the same process. How might you connect a simulation like this to training content? In a workshop with content focused on thinking diversity in project planning, innovation or meetings, debrief of this experience might include questions such as:
“How did it feel to have this kind of response to every thought you contributed?”
“Are you typically wildly enthusiastic about every thought shared by your colleagues? Are there people in your life that you tend to “celebrate” by eagerly waiting for their every thought? Are there people who invite the opposite response? Why?”
“What are some typical, less-than-enthusiastic thoughts that occur in the minds of meeting participants (or your mind) in response to comments made by others? What would it take to create a more receptive climate?”
Improv #2: Listening with the Intent to Understand
Round 1: Partner One is tasked with talking about any topic. Partner Two is tasked with listening and periodically interrupting by sharing some reference to themselves and then apologizing for interrupting. This might sound like:
Partner One: I am really busy remodeling my house which is….
Partner Two: Oh, I have remodeled a Victorian house. What a project! I’m sorry, please continue…
Partner One: That’s ok. I just went to the paint store to choose the colors for our front porch…
Partner Two: Really-I have a front porch on our lake cabin. I go fishing there almost every weekend. I’m sorry, please continue…
This continues for 3 minutes or so and then the partners switch roles. The facilitator invites reactions to the exercise with questions like:
“Was it difficult to be the interrupter? How did it feel?”
“What was your reaction to being interrupted?”
“What was going on in your head when you were tasked with being the “Interrupter”?”
Round 2: Partner One is tasked with sharing a statement. Partner Two must begin a reply statement by using the last word of the statement previously shared by Partner One. This might sound like:
Partner One: I am remodeling my home.
Partner Two: Home is truly where the heart is.
Partner One: Is this your first conference?
Partner Two: “Conference” is not the word I would use to adequately describe this event.
The facilitator debriefs the exercise by asking questions such as:
“How did you feel during this exercise?”
“Where was your attention when you were listening to your partner?”
“Was your listening more active when you were “interrupting” or linking to the last word shared by your partner? Why?”
“Compare this experience to the previous exercise. Discuss with your partner the differences in the two approaches to listening. (Reflection time) What did you notice?”
Imagine this improv activity being used to simulate the distinction between listening with attention on “self” and listening with attention on “other”. After the improv, learners could be moved into personal reflection with an invitation to “Reflect on an experience when you felt truly “heard”. What created that feeling? Share the experience with a partner.”
Have you used improv in training? What ideas are sparked by this approach?
PS-When is showed the image to wandering folks in our office, only half guessed that the image represents “Think on your feet=improv”.