An afternoon of agile improv at Blacklane

Recently, Blacklane’s agile coaching team had the pleasure to welcome and host the Hands-On Agile Berlin chapter meetup. The meetup was centered around the novel idea of meshing concepts from improv theater with agile coaching.

The facilitator was none other than Edoardo Binda Zane, a Berlin-based communication and leadership trainer who specializes in teaching people how to better communicate with one another. Leveraging his time spent in improv theater and on past career experience, he offers a fresh and fun approach that coaches and trainers can apply to their own Agile teams to encourage creative thinking and foster high levels of collaboration.

Most agile-themed meetups involve sitting back and listening to someone present for a while. This meetup was the exact opposite. Edoardo guided participants through a series of exercises. They involved us talking with one another, laughing, and even jumping up and down. We were so loud and enthusiastic that we could be heard throughout the various floors of the Blacklane office.

The exercises started off quite easy, such as the ice-breaking one. Here, the attendees paired up and had a quick three-minute discussion with one another to find out what we had in common. While many ice-breaking exercises can feel awkward or forced, this one was natural and fun.

We then moved on to a “bear and tiger one” where one person played the bear and the other played the tiger. One person had to start telling the other about why bears or tigers are so awesome. The other person listened and counted the number of reasons they came up with. Next, we switched roles and whoever came up with the most reasons within the short time slot was the winner. This is when things got really interesting. In the beginning, people were offering up pretty standard reasons about why tigers or bears were awesome. Yet as time went on, people’s ideas got stranger and more illogical.

Another exercise had us telling stories to one another, where one of us would start by saying “Do you remember that time we went here?” and the other person would respond with “And then we …” We had five minutes to go back and forth. As time went on, the stories started getting more unbelievable and comical.

The point of these exercises was to:

  • help people unlock their creativity,
  • illustrate the close connection between humor and creativity, and
  • make a closer connection to the people they are working with.

We came to understand some important takeaways from improv that we can use when we’re working to develop our teams. Improv acting involves thinking on your feet and building on what your partner has offered. You must clearly communicate by offering instant feedback, without judgement. You must unleash your creativity, and make it as easy as possible for your team to succeed, all the while having fun.

We look forward to using some of these techniques with our teams at Blacklane!