ANYTHING BECOMES POSSIBLE

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When you are able to improvise, almost anything becomes possible. I really believe that – and just as I was planning to write this blog post I was handed a wonderful example of improvisation actually saving people’s lives.

But what do I mean by improvise? Well, an improviser doesn’t sit waiting for the perfect moment to arrive. An improviser takes whatever is available, and makes the best use of it. Where others may see only unpromising materials and situations, an improviser sees abundant possibilities. 
But those possibilities can only be realised if we train ourselves to accept what we have been given, and to tap into our natural creativity. 
We have learned from a young age to be careful of being creative, in case somebody tells us we have done something wrong. And growing up amid a barrage of ads and marketing messages we have learned to feel unsatisfied with what we have been given. 
An improviser understands that it is only by accepting what we have been given that we pay it enough attention to find value in it. And this applies not only to ‘stuff’ but to the people around us, because we confer value, and status, on everything around us. 
As I was preparing to write this blog, a woman who came to a class at The School of Life told me she had heard, on the radio, a recording from the American emergency services of a school receptionist who talked an armed intruder into giving up his AK-47. 
Nobody used the word improvise, but that’s exactly what the school receptionist had done. She dared to look for possibilities available to her, and also managed to find merit in the gunman. Instead of seeming appalled by him, as many would have done, she spoke as if he were actually likeable. “It’s going to be alright sweetheart, I just want you to know that I love you, OK? I’m proud of you.” 
Through impro games, we learn that we too have the option to change our attitude to the situations we find ourselves in, and to make the best of them. We learn self-awareness, people skills, and to overcome the fear that can freeze our creativity. We may never be called on to use impro to save lives – but it’s good to know that we could if we had to.

But what do I mean by improvise? Well, an improviser doesn’t sit waiting for the perfect moment to arrive. An improviser takes whatever is available, and makes the best use of it. Where others may see only unpromising materials and situations, an improviser sees abundant possibilities. 

But those possibilities can only be realised if we train ourselves to accept what we have been given, and to tap into our natural creativity. 

We have learned from a young age to be careful of being creative, in case somebody tells us we have done something wrong. And growing up amid a barrage of ads and marketing messages we have learned to feel unsatisfied with what we have been given. 

An improviser understands that it is only by accepting what we have been given that we pay it enough attention to find value in it. And this applies not only to ‘stuff’ but to the people around us, because we confer value, and status, on everything around us. 

As I was preparing to write this blog, a woman who came to a class at The School of Life told me she had heard, on the radio, a recording from the American emergency services of a school receptionist who talked an armed intruder into giving up his AK-47. 

Nobody used the word improvise, but that’s exactly what the school receptionist had done. She dared to look for possibilities available to her, and also managed to find merit in the gunman. Instead of seeming appalled by him, as many would have done, she spoke as if he were actually likeable. “It’s going to be alright sweetheart, I just want you to know that I love you, OK? I’m proud of you.” 

Through impro games, we learn that we too have the option to change our attitude to the situations we find ourselves in, and to make the best of them. We learn self-awareness, people skills, and to overcome the fear that can freeze our creativity. We may never be called on to use impro to save lives – but it’s good to know that we could if we had to.

John-Paul Flintoff is a faculty member of The School of Life, and author of ‘How To Change The World’, and ‘Sew Your Own‘.
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Authenticity

What do we mean by authenticity and why is it relevant to the world of work?  

Most people agree that authenticity is a good thing, just like honesty, so why then is there so little emphasis on the importance of authenticity in the workplace?  There is perhaps an “authenticity paradox” in which organisations wish to prescribe behaviour (and sometimes attitudes) that are seen as “good” (good for efficiency, good for profits, good for customer care) but in doing so they create interactions between workers and clients which are lifeless, disengaged and routine. Authentic engagement is often viewed as a good thing but it cannot be prescribed or monitored as easily as conventional work goals. Authenticity (and the spontaneity that it requires) is therefore anxiety provoking and disconcerting. There is the anxiety of not knowing where an authentic conversation might lead and the fear of making mistakes. Paradoxically, it is when things are most difficult (e.g. when someone wishes to make a complaint) that an authentic, non-scripted dialogue is likely to be experienced as genuinely helpful by clients.