How 20 Minutes of Improv Can Increase Uncertainty Tolerance

The phrase “jump and the net will appear” is heard in some form or another in almost every improv class. It encourages students to embrace the unknown and have confidence in their abilities to work together and create something out of nothing. 

And along with that, another popular saying is “play the scene you’re in, not the scene you want to be in.” Meaning in improv, and in life, there are variables we can not control (#COVID-19), so instead performers need to stay present in the scene that was created, listen intently to make informed choices, and make the best of the reality. The phrase also stresses the willingness to embrace what one is given knowing that just because we want a situation to be different, doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. (Sound relevant?)

It has long been accepted that practicing improv helps people better adapt to change and think more creatively, but there was little scientific evidence to back it up...until now!

In a recently published study, researchers Peter Felsman, Sanuri Gunawardena, and Colleen M. Seifert found that after just twenty minutes of improv exercises, participants showed an increase in uncertainty tolerance while participants in scripted exercises did not. Bam! Just twenty minutes of playful improv games, and people were already feeling more prepared for change. Think about how adaptive and resilient they would be if improv was a regular practice. 

Not to get too science-y here, but the hypothesis is that improv activities serve as a form of exposure therapy, meaning participants are put into safe, yet anxiety-causing situations, and forced to navigate the uncertainty, thus gaining confidence through practice and collaboration. 

Going through change in a safe environment sounds pretty great right now to us. Stay tuned for more improv updates and tools as we all navigate through this new normal together. 

One thing that we don’t need science to confirm is that change and uncertainty is constant (thanks #COVID-19). Contact us to learn how we use the tenets of improv to help individuals, teams, and organizations embrace change rather than brace against it in this new world. 

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