How to do it

In the classic Monty Python sketch called ‘How To Do It’ three enthusiastic TV presenters sit on a sofa and dish out simplistic solutions to complex challenges.

Here’s a bit:

Alan: This week on ‘How to Do It.’ here’s Jackie to tell you how to rid the world of all known diseases.

Jackie: Hello Alan.

Alan: Hello Jackie.

Jackie: Well, first of all become a doctor and discover a marvellous cure for something, and then, when the medical world really starts to take notice of you, you can jolly well tell them what to do and make sure they get everything right so there’ll never be diseases any more.

Alan: Thanks Jackie, that was great.

Noel: Fantastic.

Too easy, right?

Behaviour change – how to do it.

At Here & Now we’re mindful of oversimplification.

A lot of the work we do with individual and group learning relates to behaviour change. Which means we’re in the territory of skills, attitudes, mindset and habits.

Skills development takes practice. Mindset and attitude shifts take individual and shared success. And habits take time to change.

When we use improvisational activities the skills, mindset and habits that come into focus all relate to social, emotional and embodied intelligence, that is to say:

  • intrapersonal – understanding yourself, what you feel and what you want
  • interpersonal – sensing other people’s feelings and motives
  • bodily-kinesthetic – co-ordinating body, heart, mind and will

Oh brother, is this stuff layered!

There is a ton of social conditioning from birth to adulthood that goes into shaping the way we show up, understand ourselves and others, relate to what’s happening and choose to respond.

The root of all of these is attention and awareness, and enhancing our fluency with shifting between focused attention and broad awareness is another area of conditioning.

The honest question

If we want to improve social, emotional and embodied intelligence (and there are plenty of good reasons to do so) then simplistic answers and top tips don’t suffice.

Rather than pat answers, we need an open and honest question:

‘How to do it?’

By starting with an honest question we can find our own answers for how to find more satisfying ways of being together, where we can risk sharing our thoughts and feelings, and take action individually and collectively, generate new ways to do things that matter, or even to make our own entertainment

It’s a question that won’t go away as it has no right to a final answer. If each every person, group, team, community, organisation, society asks this question then it opens up a space to explore it, to kick around some solutions and try them on for size to see if they work for a while.

By doing that we can find ways to support behaviour change that actually appeal to humans, in ways that follow our natural inclinations and tap into our innate resources to meet our social and emotional needs.

You’ve got to start somewhere

But we have to start somewhere, right? Well yes, and it pays to be thoughtful about where that is.

Rather than fossilise a fixed foundation for ‘How to do it’ we prefer a fluid one: ‘How to improvise well?’

It’s a question that opens up a way of doing things that is complex, adaptive and emergent. Within the craft and practice of improvisation there is a vast array of skills, attitudes, habits and deeper attributes like grit, drive, mental acuity, leadership and teamability*.

Learning experiences that explore these areas through improvised interaction and immediate life-experience offer a chance to learn pretty much anything on the social-emotional side of life through experimentation, play and immediate feedback.

How to improvise well?

Asking the question ‘How to improvise well?’ opens up the idea of improvising as:

A meta skill
More than an entertaining artform, improvisation is a technique, a process, a practice, a craft that blends knowledge, expertise and in-the-moment awareness to engage with what’s happening. It can be learned and expanded, that’s why people take improv classes.

A mindset.
When you get familiar with the core principles and practices of this craft it develops into an improvisational mindset aligned with growth. It becomes a lens on the world that see opportunities for an adaptive-responsive approach guided by shared intentions to achieve desired results without all the time and resource burdens of a worldview based on predict-and-control.

A habit
Improvisation offers two meta-habits: being here now and doing what matters. They are mutually re-enforcing and together they offer active and receptive ways of interacting with more presence and attunement, and with active acceptance and commitment.

Given the cocktail of neurochemicals stimulated by improvisation and training with improvisation, via flow states, it’s a habit-forming habit in it’s own right! Win-win, eh.

Asking ‘How to improvise well?’ offers a flexible ‘How to do it?’ that can help us navigate a complex world full of relationships. It’s open to new learning and new possibilities at all times.

Guided by aliveness

And lest we get too serious.

Improvising in the moment (where else can you improvise?) alone or with others makes us feel present and alive.

If we can be guided by what makes feel alive, we can bring more of ourselves to life.

*From Rich Diviney, The Attributes, 25 Hidden Drivers of Optimal Performance

A few more ideas

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