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Thinking Outside the Box, Life Skills & Leadership

Thinking Outside the Box, Life Skills & Leadership

Published: 09/24/2012 by Shawn Kinley, Loose Moose Theatre

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We are lead to believe that if we follow steps one through 10, we will achieve our goals. Steps, plans and curriculum are researched methodology that assures the most reasonable path to a certain end. The problem is that rigid adherence to steps ignores the benefit of the spontaneous, adaptive and creative qualities that are primary strengths in the human creature. We must bring more improvisation into the learning process!

In its present state, improvisation as a theatre art has been around for about 40 years. With televised shows like “Whose Line Is It Anyways?”, the definition of improvisation seems to have narrowed in the public perception. It is generally seen as being a clever and comedic theatre form akin to stand-up comedy.

In reality, an improvisation evening can make an audience laugh, cry or scream in anger and improvisation has moved beyond the stage. It’s not uncommon to have improvisation used in business management for team building and communication. Improvisation can also benefit scientists working on problem solving or athletes developing reaction skills. Improvisation encapsulates a broad range of concepts and develops a wide range of skills. For years there has been gap between what the successful companies like Google, Apple Inc. or Pixar Animation Studios want and what the education system delivers.

In past years there was a certain measure of success to know which lever to pull and when to pull it. “Do THIS and do it THIS WAY”. Learn the ‘taught information’ and you will find your place in the workforce. Those days are gone. Success now is marked by the individual who can grow past their learning. Thinking outside the box is a key to success for students in the 21st century. How do you train for that? You learn how to improvise.

One day at a public school I had an exercise where I asked for a volunteer. Hands went up. I had them to put their hands down and then asked why they had put them up. I wanted them to recognize that they reacted automatically, without thinking first. 

They expressed their thoughts about the problem. They took steps to solve it. They learned. Improvisation is a theatre form and way of teaching life skills. It is an attitude towards learning that is critical to success in today’s evolving society. When the student learns to think for themselves, adapt and improvise they become a dynamic player in their own education and life. 


Improvisation Warm-Up 

Improvisation Game List 

Canadian Improv Games - Training and Support


"Reprinted with permission from Shawn Kinley, Loose Moose Theatre"