We’ve got your back

improv cardsBack in February I wrote this list of 40 things. I’ve done quite a few things on the list. But there is still more to do.

Recently I completed no 7 – Do an improvisation class.

When I wrote the list it seemed like a really great idea. When ages ago I signed up to an ‘Improv for Beginners Evening Class’ with the promise of six weeks of a ‘fun friendly and supportive environment with no previous experience needed’ I thought great – what is the worst that can happen?

At the beginning of November in the afternoon before my first class I almost talked myself out of going. Too much work to do, too tired, too cold, too far etc (Ever done this? Sound familiar?). I tried to talk myself out of going because I was scared. I was scared of what I might have to do. I was scared of the unknown. I was scared that I was going to have to spend two uncomfortable hours in a room of extroverted drama students trying really hard to be funny. It would have been much easier to convince myself that it wasn’t for me and stick in my comfort zone. But I’m so glad I didn’t.

Improv isn’t doing comedy or being funny – although it can be. According to our friends at wiki it’s about creating action without pre planning. It’s about reacting in the moment.

And being able to react in the moment is a good skill for life. I’ve learnt way more than I can cover in one blog post in the last 6 weeks.

The biggest learning for me has been learning that it’s OK to fail. Because no matter what you say or do, whatever ridiculous thing blurts out of your mouth it’s the job of the team to accept what you say, work with it and keep building on ideas.  So whatever you do or say ‘the rule of improv’ is that your team has got your back. And that feels great.

Now just think about how cool that would be if that rule applied to ‘real life’.

I’ve written several blogs about the importance of learning from failure and building an environment where taking risks and failing is OK. And whilst we all generally agree with the theory, it is much harder in practice to push ourselves out of our comfort zones, risk failing at something and then stand up and shout about it.

But imagine how much more good work could get done if we were not so afraid to fail?

So if you are serious about creating that environment in your work; with your team or in your personal life, where it really is ok to fail, I absolutely suggest that you give improv a go. Because that’s how you learn, through experience, by taking risks, putting yourself on the line, knowing what it feels like to be part of a supportive team which gives you the confidence to experiment without fear because – your team has your back.

The guys that have my back are Hoopla! I love them and my new team so much I’m going to do their next course.

This blog was bought to you by the number 7. 




Charity innovation takes many forms

A guest blog from Zoe Amar.

Lucy’s recent blog about the 7 myths of innovation has inspired me to challenge my preconceptions in this area. As Lucy says, innovation is not a lofty ideal. I think there are great examples of innovation all around us and I spotted one when out and about in St Albans, Hertfordshire recently.

Raindrops on roses shop Raindrops on Roses is a cute gift shop on the high street – with a difference. It sells attractive products created locally, with 100% of the profits going to charity. It’s run by a team of local volunteers and supported by a local market research company, with each of their staff giving 3-5 working days each year helping to run the store. I don’t know the agency or the store very well but it struck me as an excellent idea, one which offers some great lessons in innovation.

  1. Innovation isn’t just for national charities. It’s not about having a big budget; it just means doing something differently, because you can see a great opportunity. Raindrops on Roses shows how you don’t necessarily need the scale and reach of a big charity to innovate. In other words, innovation can be local.
  2. Innovation should raise aspirations. Raindrops on Roses is a beautiful shop full of lovely gifts. It reflects how charity shops are currently undergoing something of a quiet revolution. Charity shops have been improving their store layouts, lighting and displays recently, reflecting consumer demand for a high quality retail experience. As recent research from Demos showed, charity shops are beneficial for high streets. They improve footfall and support the local economy. Raindrops is innovating by its focus on creating the best possible experience for customers, which in turn means that it can command higher prices for its stock.
  3. Innovation should bring people together. As Lucy says in her blog, innovation is not about a lone genius in an ivory tower. There’s a real sense with Raindrops that it’s a project by the community and for the community. It was set up specifically to support Herts against Cancer, a local charity who are aiming to raise £50,000 to buy state-of-the-art software for a local cancer hospital scanning centre.
  4. Corporates who back innovation don’t need to be big tech companies. I don’t know much about ABA Market Research, the local agency who are supporting the store, but they’re clearly a smaller corporate who wanted to support a local initiative. As Tom Levitt argues in his blog for The Guardian Voluntary Sector Network, charities often overlook SMEs when contemplating working with companies. Your perfect corporate partner might be just down the road from you. And they might be way more innovative than you think.
  5. Innovation is not a flash in the pan, as Lucy says. Raindrops opened a year ago but it looks like a long-established shop on the high street. A year is a long time in retail. When I first walked past, I assumed it was a family run store that had been around for years and had recently been given a facelift. Yes, innovation starts with a brilliant idea, but making that happen means a long-term commitment.

What other great examples of charity innovation have you noticed recently? And how have they made you think differently about innovation?

Zoe Amar is charity marketing and digital communications expert and freelance consultant with extensive experience in developing and delivering marketing, digital communications and social media strategies. You can follow her on Twitter @zoeamar or check our her website here.

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