No matter your political leanings or beliefs - this inauguration day we're about to embark on a journey to an unknown destination. No matter if you're scared, relieved, excited, neutral, or angry: it's real and it's happening.
While no one knows what to expect from this new chapter in American (and perhaps, world) politics, one thing is for sure - politics and business are now intrinsically linked. There's no such thing as "a safe space" from political thought on social platforms like LinkedIn, there's no way to avoid being somewhat political in day-to-day business transactions. Honestly, as an employee of a female created, owned, and run business that specializes in teaching people empathy, trust, and positivity - every day in the office has begun to feel radically political.
That being said, how do we as a business continue on as "normally" as possible? For us at improve it!, a professional development company, it's a matter of doubling down on the tenants we practice and preach to our clients through improvisation: listen, support, and celebrate each other.
One of the most essential elements of improvisation is listening. This is usually the first lessons we teach to our clients: in order to work better together, in order to become an efficient and functioning team - you must listen. Think about it - you can't "yes, and" someone if you aren't even hearing what they're saying. Improv without listening is just two side-by-side monologues.
To that end, listening has become an essential means of survival in politics and in the workplace. As a company, we vow to actively practice empathy with our clients and with our employees. We cannot identify where issues and similarities lie if we're not trying to hear each other.
In improvisation, once you've heard what your scene partner has said your job is then to support them. It's the "and" part of the "yes, and". Note: this does not always mean agreeing with what they are saying. It's an important distinction in improv. "Yes, And" isn't always about loving everything your scene partners are saying and doing onstage, it's about supporting their vision as their own truth.
For us, this means doubling-down on our partnerships. One aspect of our business that we're most proud of is our charity arm - we donate a portion of every event sold to the charity Bear Necessities, an organization dedicated to helping kids with pediatric cancer through research grants and experiences called "Bear Hugs". As we enter into a time of uncertainty - we vow to continue to support them and their truth in any way we can. From there, we can continue to build and create and do more for each other.
We like to consider ourselves an "edu-tainment" company. Yes, we are first and foremost a professional development resource - but the way in which we go about our training is through laughter. When bigger issues arise in the world - political, economical, or otherwise - sometimes the most important release is through entertainment or laughter. We pride ourselves in providing love and light for our clients, even if it is only for a matter of two-hours during their day.
No matter how this new hybrid of politics and business shakes out in the next four to eight years, we renew our promise to bring laughter and positivity to every one of our clients. We seek to celebrate each attendee for who they are - we truly believe that's our value as a company and what improvisation can provide to every who practices it.
Who knows what will develop in the next few years. Maybe the business and political world will change for the better! Maybe for the worse, or even not at all. In this moment, right now (because that's all that exists in improv - this moment) we have each other, and we have our skills to fall back on when things get uncertain. Who knows what will happen in the next moment - we'll just have to improvise.
Allie Keller is an improviser, writer, director, and improv coach who has studied at Northwestern University, The Second City Conservatory, iO Training Center, Annoyance Training Center, UCB New York, and Green Shirt Studio. She has produced and directed "Mic Fight“ and "Will You Accept This Rose: An Improvised Parody of The Bachelor“. She has over five years of experience in corporate training development and design and is an active member of the improve it! team as the Director of Operations.