Liberatory Leadership Playground: Field Trip, Improve Class

How often do we get to do things for fun? Do we get to play at work, and what does this look like? How often do we let fear get in the way of having fun or trying something new? 

On Tuesday, June 20th, 2023, we hosted a virtual session called Field Trip: Improv Class with Corin Wells. In this interactive session, we had fun and recapture play. Here is my reflection on the importance of incorporating play into our lives.

I had no expectations coming into the Improv class (this was my first Improve Class). Before entering, I told myself to have fun and push myself out of my comfort zone. This reminded me of what my mom used to say to me when trying a new after-school activity. Throughout the different exercises, I found myself laughing and having fun, thinking about how much everyone was connecting by cheering each other, going along with any story that came out, and sharing their likes and dislikes (see the videos for examples of Improv exercises). As I pushed myself out of my comfort zone, I discovered a funny side to storytelling and became more comfortable with public speaking. I loved trying something new because, to me, that’s a way you can untapped potential you may be unaware of. 

Playing in this space allowed us to build relationships and develop trust. It promoted teamwork, empathy, and understanding and respecting others’ perspectives. While we were playing, I found myself not only having fun but relaxed once I stopped feeling embarrassed and decided to go with it. The Improv class allowed me to express myself freely and experiment with different roles and identities (I was a 90’s singer in a girl band making a comeback), and even though it was a little challenging because I had never participated in something like this, it was in a safe and loving environment, which helped reduce anxiety and release tension. 

Play is a natural way for children to express themselves, but somewhere in adulting, we forget to play and begin to think of play as silly or something we do not have time for. But throughout the playground series, we have tried to recapture play because playing encourages imagination, develops creativity and problem-solving. Playful environments foster a sense of curiosity, experimentation, and openness to new possibilities. For example, the Improv class provided a break from daily routines and responsibilities, allowing me to relax and recharge. It was full of enjoyment, fun, and pleasure, which made me think about how play can be a form of self-care because it can provide a healthy outlet to rejuvenate our minds and body. It can be an intentional activity at work to shift our mindsets, stimulate creativity, teamwork, and increase joy. Play can also increase positive emotions, boost morale, and create a more relaxed and enjoyable work environment. The Improve class exercises can be adapted into check-ins or team-building activities. For example, crazy eight was a quick, high-energy activity to get your body moving and energy levels up. 

The playground series also helped me unbind from rigid expectations and norms associated with traditional professionalism. It encouraged me to bring my unique personality and perspectives to the activities and discussions. During all of the sessions, we recognized the diverse identities, backgrounds, and experiences in all the spaces we interacted, allowing us to embrace play again as part of the workplace. By incorporating play and the rules of play into our work, we move away from rigid notions of what it means to be a “professional.” We become more comfortable with being our whole selves in the workplace. We build trust and communication within the team. We can cultivate imagination and creativity to envision our work differently.