Insights and Takeaways from AIN Conference 2012

This year’s Applied Improvisation Network annual conference took place in San Francisco, and as usual, I walked away with a ton of insights, great connections and new exercises to use in my programs.

Below are some the highlights from the weekend. To find out more about the organization, check out the Applied Improvisation site. To see the descriptions of all the great talks, check out the AIN Conference Calendar Page. To check out photos, hit up the Humor That Works Facebook Page.

Note from AIN Conference 2012:

One World MusicGary Muszynski:

  • “There’s no such thing as a wrong note.” – Art Tatum
  • Everything has a rhythm: Business cycle, cultures & organizations, biological systems, emotions & moods, learning & engagement, music.
  • Growth happens between chaos and order.

Translating Yes AndSue Walden

  • Yes And does not mean agreement. It means acceptance, appreciation, acknowledging, encouraging, respect.
  • If you’re a “problem-solver,” you’re more likely a problem spotter. If you’re a problem spotter, you’re always looking for what’s wrong instead of what’s right.
  • Yes And is a tool for communication and encouraging innovation. It’s not for record keeping, auditing.

Think Like an Improviser, Speak Like a CustomerKathy Klotz-Guest

  • Improvisers use jargon, words like: blocking, status, group mind, yes and, offer, initiation. Clients don’t care about this, they care about results.

When Finance Met ImprovBelina Raffy, Caron Bradshaw

  • “The opposite of ‘play’ isn’t ‘work’, it’s depression.” – Dr. Brian Sutton-Smith
  • “The most important lesson from the day is the notion that you can set direction but you can’t plan for each step of the journey and you have to be prepared to improvise as you go.” – Finance client

Applied Improvisation: What?Rebecca Stockley

  • Applied improvisation is not a new industry. There are thousands of practitioners around the world.
  • Applied Improvisation (according to Rebecca): The off-stage use of the principles and practices of improvisation.

Write Write WritePatricia Ryan Madson

  • “What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.” – Carl Sagan

Speak Their LanguageRich Cox

  • No business needs applied improvisation. They need a solution to a problem.
  • What do we do? Develop Leadership, Inspire Collaboration, Improve Communication, and more.
  • How do we do it? Listen. Reincorporate. Build on their ideas. Collaborate. Make them Brilliant.

ain conference katStatus and Story Mash-upKat Koppett

  • Story is meaning. It’s the way we make sense of the world.
  • The more equal the status between two people, the more can be communicated.
  • The privileged are often blind to their privilege.

Improv PartnersWilliam Hall

  • 20% of our neurons are mirror neurons that operate by being sparked by mirroring someone else.
  • Empathy inspires collaboration.
  • Collaboration requires you to bring out the best in your partner.

Meet Your MonsterGary Hirsch

  • He used to have nightmares as a kid. When he’d wake up in the middle of the night and tell his dad, they would go to the kitchen, have a snack, and Gary would draw the monsters from the nightmares. Gary’s dad then had Gary erase the monsters. As he erased them from the page, they would go away from his dreams.

Accidental Follow the FollowerGary Schwartz

  • “The intuition is where genius lies.” – Paul Sills

Develop Organizational TalentAlex Cleberg

  • New skills are required for 21st century management and social entrepreneurship. They include: the wisdom of crowds, jumping in before things are fully resourced, engaging failure.

AIN DiscussionPaul Z Jackson

  • Applied improvisation (according to Paul): where the experience is with participants rather than actors/audience.
  • It’s also the interplay between structure and freedom.
  • We need to go from reacting to creating.

Interview with Bernie DeKoven

  • My criteria for success as a teacher was that I could leave the room for 1 minute and they’d be doing the same thing they were doing when I left when I came back.
  • A game isn’t fun unless everyone who plays wants to play. Every game is optional for people to play.
  • The participants should be the director of their own play experience. I’m not here to teach you my games, I’m here to help you find your games.
  • Change a WIN/LOSE experience into a SINK/SWIM experience, where you succeed or “fail” based on working as a team. Whether you win or lose doesn’t matter because you still experienced it together.
  • An incredible resource for games: Deep Fun’s Pointless Games.

Heroic ImprovisationMary Tyszkiewicz

  • The new “hero” is an improviser.

Quit Winging It: Improvise!Mary Jone Pories

  • Our problem is that people believe improvisation is synonymous with “winging it.”
  • In an effort to appear awesome, we perpetuate the myth. Michelangelo said: “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” It makes it seem like magic. He also said: “If you knew how much work went into it, you wouldn’t call it genius.”
  • To improvise: accept reality, build to the greatest potential and act at the highest level.

One Small Step for Me, One Giant Improv For TaiwanHsiao-Hsien Wu

  • Told the story of a boy who stood outside the door of her improv school and admitted he was so scared and wondered if he should turn around.  We all have our door. The one we stand outside of, scared to enter. Will you have the courage to go through it?

Create Change with Neuro ImprovBrent Darnell

  • Awareness alone doesn’t change behavior; if this were true, wouldn’t we all be perfect? Change happens when we create new neuro-pathways.
  • Physiologically impossible to be thankful and stressed at the same time.
  • There are no values put on emotions (good or bad), they are just information.


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5 thoughts on “Insights and Takeaways from AIN Conference 2012”

  1. Thanks for the great notes, helpful review for me for the ones I attended and interesting to get a differnt “angle” from your listening. I’m curious, I missed Sue’s saying:
    “If you’re a “problem-solver,” you’re more likely a problem spotter. If you’re a problem spotter, you’re always looking for what’s wrong instead of what’s right.”
    …as someone who loves to solve problems, I’m curious, what do you think might be a way to maintain that skill w/o being a problem-spotter/focused?

    1. I think she was suggesting we should take a “yes and” mentality to problem-solving where we approach them as opportunities (what could be right) instead of what’s wrong. I don’t know if she gave an alternative title to problem-solver.

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