The value of improvisation in leadership – Amy Crawford

8 June 2017

Jessica Abramovic

Jessica is the Communications and Events Coordinator at YWCA Canberra.

The June She Leads Workshop is presented by Lightbulb Improv, and is designed to explore how improvisation skills build confidence in presentation and performance in the workplace. The workshop will be run by Lou Maconachie and Amy Crawford, both of whom are co-founders of Lightbulb Improv, along with Merriden Varrall.

We interviewed Amy Crawford ahead of the workshop to give readers a greater idea of what to expect from this workshop, and explain why improv skills are vital to good management.

Amy has 15 years’ experience in the Australian Public Service in Canberra, including 8 years at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. With that experience, Amy brings a Canberra perspective on how improvisation skills can be integrated into the workplace.  Amy’s experience in team management provides participants with practical examples of how improvisation techniques assist team dynamics.

How would you define improv?

It’s the ability to create an interesting scene out of nothing. In reality it’s a series of skills that help you see, hear and build on ideas to create meaning within a scene or even real life.

Why did you get into improv?

Initially I started improv to get more creativity back in my life – an acceptable form of silliness for a grown up.

What are the top three ways improv can improve management skills?

Improv has taught me to listen, observe and accept what’s happening in my immediate surrounds. In the workplace, it’s helped me step back and observe not only to the words being spoken, but to look to the whole scenario.

What is the biggest mistake managers who use improv can make?

In improv we have a term called “bulldozing” which means pushing the direction of a scene and not paying attention to anyone else. It may be tempting to take improv ideas and try to instantly insert them into the workplace, but I’d suggest it’s best to gently bring new ideas into your team’s work style.

What brought yourself, Lou, and Merriden to co-found Lightbulb Improv?

All three of us have been mothers returning to the workplace where it can feel quite daunting to string together a coherent sentence, let alone lead teams again. We built this Lightbulb improv program to empower people, particularly women, to take some basic improv skills and build their confidence in the workplace.

How does improv help you be a better leader and manager?

Improv is about ‘being in the moment’ as on stage if you don’t know what’s coming you really can’t control and plan beyond the moment. I’ve transferred that skill to my management approach where I take in all the information in front of me and not try to preempt a solution.

What is your favourite thing about improv?

That it encourages free thinking that can lead to hilarity or fantastic ideas you could never have created on your own.

What advice do you have for a leader considering improv classes?

You’re already doing improv – at meetings,  in the kitchenette, for presentations, for performance reviews – so you might as well have some more tools at your disposal.  Otherwise I’d recommend just hiding under your desk until retirement!

To hear more from Amy and to attend the She Leads Workshop – Get Your Voice Heard with Lightbulb Improv
on Tuesday 27 June 2017 from 5:30pm-8:30pm, visit the event page now.


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