Think Like an Improviser
We're not only enjoying what we do and finding that improvisation is very practical and applicable to most people's lives and their jobs, we've also found that there's a lot of science behind why improvisation is beneficial to you, and actually good for you. So we have the wonderful privilege of having on our advisory board Dr. Charles Lim, he's based out of the University of California, San Francisco, and he's a neurosurgeon, neuroscientist, and actually a pretty accomplished musician. And so he is someone that is really, really interested and really accomplished in the emerging field of combining neuroscience with creativity. And he is our scientist in residence, and here is gonna be a little video that's gonna tell you a little bit more from him, in his own words, about why improv is good for you and what happens in your brain when you're improvising.
My name is Charles Lim. I am a researcher at UCSF, and I'm the chief of otology. You know, one thing I find interesting is I had ne...
ver intended to become a performer of any kind. Yet, when I give lectures even, some extent even surgery, sometimes you realize, huh, this is almost a performance. When you're performing your best, and you're really your most comfortable, it's because improvisational elements are really dominating what you're doing. When you are telling a story about yourself on stage, and you're an amateur improviser, and you've not done this before, you're very nervous, you got 100 people looking at you, this part of your brain is firing away, because it's a conscious self-monitoring area. It's involved in effortful planning, and you're thinking wow, I don't wanna screw this up, don't say this, try to be funny here. You're very nervous, you're very self-aware. And so this part of your brain is very active. So if you were to look at the electrical activity of the brain, it's really active right here in the pre-frontal cortex. Now the lateral pre-frontal regions, and the dorsolateral, which is more back here, these are the areas that are really involved in conscious self-monitoring. And so we have this kind of working theory that for spontaneous creative states, you've got conscious self-monitoring areas brought down to a minimum, so that the unimpeded flow of ideas can emerge kind of unrestricted. We have to understand that improvisation is a skill that gets developed and nurtured over time. You don't just suddenly happen. And so, from that perspective, you view it as a lifelong acquisition of skills, not something you're gonna just master overnight. And the only way to get good at it is to put yourself out there and start doing it.
All right, thank you very much, Charles. He could not be here today. He's in surgery at all times, it seems. But he's a wonderful, wonderful friend of ours, and an advisor like I said. And if you wanna learn more about his work, you can find a lot of it online. But maybe a good place to start is his Ted Talk called, "Your Brain on Improv," where he talks about an experiment he did in Baltimore with jazz musicians and freestyle rappers, to see what happened when he put them into an FMRI machine to see what happens when they're actually improvising. What is the activity in the brain? And now, we're fortunate enough to be going through an experiment very similar to that. We're right in a pre-production and design phase of it, and it'll be taking place I think the rest of this year for the most part, where we're gonna actually do a similar experiment with improvisational actors and comedians, just to see what exactly is going on when someone is doing essentially what we're gonna be doing for the next two days.
Great, thanks, that was fun to hear. So we want to talk to you a little bit about how Speechless operates, and the way we approach improvisation. We have a point system that we've developed that we'll go through over these classes that we have for you. We have Presence, we have Originality, Inclusion, Narrative, and Transformation. And we've turned those into CreativeLive classes. Our first class, Lee, talk a little bit about that?
Yeah, the first class is Strengthen Your Stage Presence. And Strengthen Your Stage Presence is really gonna be about the physical tools that you bring on stage, your body, your voice, your mind, and how to optimize those to feel more confident and comfortable.
And then we'll move into Add Originality to Your Presentations. How do we amplify the authentic you that you are, so that that becomes a currency that you bring to every talk, every meeting, everything that you do?
And Become an Inclusive Presenter will focus a little bit more on how you interact with others, the audience, or maybe you're in a meeting. How do you see the differences in people and respect and value those? And also find different ways to get in other people's shoes to understand and empathize with their perspectives.
And then we'll look at how to Build Narrative Into Your Presentations, so how do we make story part of all of the things that we're doing? How do we tell a story in a meeting? How do we communicate our stories to clients? And how do we share our stories with each other?
Yeah, and then the final class, Impact Your Audience with Transformative Presentations, will focus on the impact you want to make. When you're communicating and when you're presenting, what exactly is the goal and how do you get there, and what are the ways to make that even more impressive, I guess, and more impactful for the audience?
Great. Sometimes when people hear that we're going to be doing improvisation, they get a little bit nervous and get a little bit worried about what that means, so for all of you here and everyone at home, we wanna let you know what the expectations are when we're doing improvisation together. The first thing we're going to ask is that you try to be spontaneous. That means that when you have an idea, that we're going to embrace it and share it, and try to limit the amount of judgment or editing that we have when we're sharing.
Yeah, and make others look and feel good. And what that really means is just know that you're all in this together, you're all sitting here in the studio audience, and everyone at home, you're all in this together. No one is expected to know exactly where this is going. And we just want you to support each other. A big part of improv is making each other look good and treating each other like the creative geniuses that we are. And if were focusing on other people, chances are we're not thinking as much about how we're doing, which is a big part of this.
Yeah, we're gonna work on this idea of yes, and ... How do you build on ideas? Once we're being spontaneous, we've created a safe space, we want to then "yes, and ..." each other's ideas. Validate what someone has said, and then add our own ideas to it, so that we can brainstorm together. And we're also gonna look at how to "yes, and ..." our own ideas.
Yeah, and we're also gonna try to have fun. And there's an exclamation point after fun, so you know that we really mean it. Are you having fun so far? It's very early (laughter). Jan, how are you doing?
You look great, and I love that we all are matching in our black. Our mime troupe is actually gonna launch tomorrow night! So thank you. These are the things we want you to keep in mind. You have no pressure on you. Every thing you do is perfect in here, and just have a good time.