Nonprofits can apply improv to be at their creative best
“Honing a mindset of discovery and practicing innovation behaviors on a daily basis is the best way we can ensure that future generations will inherit a healthy planet and sustainable society that supports prosperity and happiness for all its members,” assert Innovative Mindset coauthors John Sweeney and Elena Imaretska.
Serious results created by comedic roots
Sweeney and Imaretska firmly believe a mindset of discovery is a key to success in our social sector. What’s more, they utilize what at first glance seems like an unlikely model to pursue innovation. It turns out that the skills and techniques practiced by improvisational actors are at the very core of what leaders need to be at their creative best.
The authors show you how living in the improv actor’s mindset of discovery can lead you to significant productivity. If you can successfully implement what they call the “Big Five” behaviors in your everyday life, you can:
become a better communicator,
be more comfortable with risk,
build your confidence, and
reduce judging others and yourself.
The Innovative Mindset is a practical guide that lets you integrate its lessons into your day-to-day interactions with people. Yet, only through dedication to your “fitness plan” that develops the “Big Five” behaviors. One of the behaviors I wanted to highlight in today’s post is about deferring judgment.
This behavior does not mean eliminate or avoid judgment. You need to judge to make good decisions but waiting to judge allows you to explore new possibilities and potential. Deferring judgment allows us to hold off fear of threats, experience empathy and think more complexly.
Assume the new information is neutral. “When we defer judgment, we create the space that’s needed to allow the next part of innovation to happen.” Often, you buy time to find the good in the situation. The authors give the example of waiting to respond to an email. If you wait, it allows you to check your emotional reactions and see the emailer’s point of view.
Below is the specific advice to defer judgment:
Muscles to exercise: “pausing, employing gratitude, embracing ‘what if” versus ‘it’s not going to work because,’ letting go of preconceived notions and biases, and calming your emotions to let the cortical brain do its work.”
Tactics to practice: “1. Take a timed pause before responding [you choose your time frame]. 2. Say thank you—and really mean it—before responding. 3. Say ‘yes, and’ as a conjunction. 4. Survey your body and relax it intentionally. Breathe. 5. Put yourself in other people’s shoes to find value in their points of view.”
Possible deferring judgment workouts: Stage family debates where you argue both sides. Take the implicit bias test from Harvard Business School (https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html) and remind yourself with images that address the biases you reveal. Practice meditation and breathing exercises to calm your emotions. Think through a current challenge from the perspective of your friends and colleagues to see how they might solve it.
While the authors acknowledge that deferring judgment is one of the most challenging of the five behaviors to master, the results are worth the effort. Try deferring judgment in your next meeting when creativity is called for and agree upon it with your colleagues before you start.
How did it change the tone of your meeting and the number of ideas that were generated? For more information about the Innovative Mindset, visit the the authors (http://johnsweeney.co/books/ or https://www.linkedin.com/in/imaretska) or learn more about our Page to Practice book summary.