The principles of improv and comedy have been appearing in the business world with increasing frequency over recent years, as a highly effective and enjoyable way to generate ideas and improve teamwork. Yesterday, the New York Times published an article about Funworks, an ad agency in San Francisco whose approach to idea generation for clients is deeply integrated with the principles of improv.
Led by "talented improv and sketch artists who have years of training using the 'Yes, And' approach to building ideas," (per their website) Funworks leads intense, structured workshops to generate material for and with their advertisement clients, such as SodaStream and Clorox. As part of their strategy, they believe that creativity is directly connected to the positive working environment that they create. This belief is supported by other experts as well, including Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile, who says:
'When people are in a good mood ... “cognition kind of loosens up, helping us to make connections between things that are normally not associated” — the key to coming up with good ideas.'
In fact, on the Funworks website, they list links and references to academic researchers at Stanford, Harvard, UCSF, and other institutions, all of whom are doing work on the connection between fun and creativity.
Medicine can learn and benefit from such a mindset. Clinical practice demands quick, creative solutions to unexpected circumstances, and our innovative abilities are often stifled by tense, even acrimonious working environments. In contrast, a medical improv curriculum establishes a fun, playful atmosphere in which clinicians can feel safe, creative, and supportive of each other. Those cognitive and behavioral skills can then be taken into the workplace and put to good use. If we use medical improv training to deliberately foster positive environments and supportive relationships, then we can come up with new ideas and connections that can help us solve the challenges that we face — together.