Exercise: THUMB WRESTLE.
- Have the group divide into pairs for thumb wrestling.
- Bring a participant to the front of the group and illustrate the thumb wrestling position.
- Tell the participants their objective is to maximize the amount of money they get. (Clarify this is imaginary money.)
- Instruct, “Every time you hold your partner’s thumb down, you get a dollar. Only hold the thumb down for a second and then start over. You will have 20 seconds. Ready, go.”
- After 20 seconds ask, “Who made no money?” It’s likely many hands will go up.
- Then ask, “How many of you made one to five dollars? Six or more? Did anyone make ten or more?”
- If partners raise their hands for the higher amounts have them come to the front and demonstrate.
- Soon the group will understand. The only way to maximize winnings is to cooperate rather than compete.
- There are two primary ways to cooperate: quickly alternate who wins so each player wins half the time or let one player win all the time and split the money.
Suggested Debrief Questions:
- What did the partners who made the most money do?
- Why are we so competitive, combatant or literal and linear in our thinking?
- What did you learn about cooperation?
- Can you think of how you might create win-win situations in your work with citizens, suspects, fellow officers, staff, and your bosses?
Back at the station.
Improv isn’t limited to helping officers bring their whole brain to scenarios and the street, as the last debriefing question above demonstrates. Many of the qualities needed to do improv are equally effective in establishing a productive and innovative departmental environment, teams, and individual officers.
Improv exercises teach team trust and influence. They can also help generate ideas and harmony among different points of view. Improv can open the door to honest and open communication, and help overcome people's fear. These bridges are even more important during these “do everything with nothing” economic times.
Here’s an improv exercise to use at an in-service that has team, trust and leadership building as one of its aims.
Exercise: “YES, BUT” VS. “YES, AND”
- Have participants pair off and take opposite positions on a job issue. For example, whether to settle a use-of-force lawsuit in which the officer followed policy and procedure because it would be less costly than a trial; whether to pursue a promotion from patrol sergeant to an administrative lieutenant’s position; whether to change from five 8-hour shifts to four 10s (or vice versa).
- Each of the pairs tries to persuade the other of their position.
- In the first exchange, direct participants to go back and forth in their debate using, “yes, but.”
- Then have them switch their positions and this time discuss the issue back and forth using “yes, and.”
When Sam Horn, author of the book Tongue Fu®, does this exercise with workshop participants they’re amazed at the difference when they substitute “yes, and.” The discussions become more courteous and less contentious. Instead of trying to make the other person see the error of their ways, they start acknowledging and treating each other’s views with respect.
This isn’t soft skills stuff.
Being able to bring both sides of our brains to scenarios, the street, classroom training and leadership is critical. Improv exercises stimulate both your right and left brain hemispheres and get them zapping each other across the synapses.
They’re active, surprising, engaging and fun. Kat Koppett notes,
“Improv exercises can be wonderful ‘jolts’ – introducing individuals to new ways of thinking, as well as wonderful workout routines for exercising the muscles of creativity and teamwork.”
Companies like Sony, Price-Waterhouse, Microsoft, Dell and Oracle agree with her as Koppett has designed and delivered training to help them deal with the “complex chaos” of today’s corporate workplace.