I had the pleasure of running a short workshop for a well known charity today. Just 4 participants, with a brief to improve communications. I decided to focus on the skill of listening. Basically, it doesn’t matter how good you are at communicating, if your colleagues have no listening skills, they still won’t receive your message.
I used an improv game called “One Word At A Time Story”. I was delighted to discover that none of them had heard of this game, nor played it before. The game sounds pretty simple but in practice, is a bit harder than it sounds. You can get any number of people playing it, from 2 upwards. In this case, it was 4 – although I got them into pairs to have a go at it, so they felt less exposed.
Then they got up and stood in a line, to tell a story, using just one word at a time, each.
I gave them a first name and an object – Kevin and Spaceship. They ended up telling me a lovely story of Kevin and his spaceship. The spaceship had never been into space, because Kevin was too busy eating cheese and crackers. Although he soon switched to crisps and marmite and this meant the spaceship could finally go into space.
Aside from the silliness of the story, a few themes came up. Firstly, it was tricky at times to stick to one word. When they were reaching the end of a sentence, people were tempted to finish the sentence themselves with 2 or 3 words. It highlighted the fact that during this game, they were all equal and needed to trust each other.
Another point came up, which was about a concept called “group mind”, which I describe as collaborative thinking without planning or conversation. Another way of looking at it, would be intuition – a group of people using their collective intuition to sense one another’s thoughts or feelings or ideas. The group I worked with today, showed a good deal of group mind and were very supportive of each others ideas.
One of the common issues that this game throws up, is “too many cooks, spoil the broth”, in other words; during the game (the story) people introduce more and more characters, themes, props, locations – this can be very confusing for the listener/audience. This can be a problem in the workplace, when people are trying to out-do each other with their ideas – or they are so busy thinking of their own ideas, they forget to listen to other peoples ideas. They become competitive rather than collaborative.
So to develop listening skills, a sense of sharing and cooperation and to support each others ideas, try a game of One Word At A Time. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like some support with it.