Team-building, live and unscripted

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in Office Communication

For those who fear public speaking, here’s an even more terrifying prospect: doing improv in front of a crowd.

Yet that’s exactly what CEO Mark Fuller, who heads WET Design, encourages employees to do through an improv class led by outside instructors.

“Improv, if properly taught, is really about listening to the other person, because there’s no script,” he says. “It’s about responding.”

Be honest: Most of us, when arguing, are merely focused on what we’re going to say next. We engage in machine-gun monologues with very little listening.

A lack of listening is what gave Fuller the idea of introducing an improv class.

“I was noticing that we didn’t have a lot of good communication among our people,” he says.

But listening is critical, if you’re on stage doing improv.

“I don’t know what goofball thing you’re going to say, so I can’t be planning anything. I have to really be listening to you so I can make an intelligent—­humorous or not—response,” he says.

At first, everybody had an excuse for not attending. Eventually, though, word got around that it was a cool class. Now there’s a waiting list to attend.

Beyond boosting communication skills, Fuller says the experience creates a tighter-knit group. That can be tough to achieve in a workplace like his, with so many disciplines under the same roof—illustrators, optical engineers, Ph.D. chemists, landscape designers.

When a group of employees is in the “emotionally naked environment” of improv, “it’s an amazing bonding thing. It’s like we’re all the same.”

— Adapted from “WET Design and the Improv Approach to Listening,” The New York Times.

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