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Improv Comedy and Modern Marketing Education: Exploring Consequences for Divergent Thinking, Self-Efficacy, and Collaboration

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Abstract

In an era of constant connectedness—from Twitter tweets to the 24-hour news cycle—the need for marketers to be nimble and responsive to the needs of consumers and ever-evolving markets is greater than ever before. Indeed, being able to be “in the moment” and to react instantaneously demands a different kind of training and education than the slower paced, carefully constructed, and casually timed marketing campaigns of yesterday. Improvisational comedy and its tenets—agreement (“Yes, and.. ”); be you (and know that you are enough); make bold, unexpected choices—require a comparable, in-the-moment mind-set that encourages group collaboration, positive self-efficacy, and the ability to generate creative ideas without hesitation. Two studies show that improvisational training has positive consequences for group collaboration, self-efficacy, and divergent thinking, skills essential for modern marketing roles. First, an exploratory study of the general population reveals preliminary links between improvisation familiarity and the aforementioned marketing skills, as well as between a brief improv manipulation and divergent thinking. Second, a follow-up study using actual students in a 10-week improvisation course confirms causal relationships between long-term improv training and group collaboration, self-efficacy, and divergent thinking. Effect sizes are large and endure even 4 months following the improv training.

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... For example, business schools utilize theatre improvisation to build community and encourage risk-taking 5 as well as enhance self-efficacy and group collaboration. 2 Graduate schools use improvisation to improve the ability of PhD students to communicate their research to those outside of their scientific disciplines. 6 A number of healthcare professional programs have also embraced theatre improvisation. ...
... Other assessments include a study of undergraduates who had participated in a 10-week improvisation course as compared to those enrolled in a 10-week consumer behavior course. 2 Here, students with improvisation training were found to score higher in tasks requiring divergent thinking and reported improved perceptions about group collaboration. Similarly, graduate-level nutrition and dietetic students who experienced medical improvisation via its incorporation into traditional coursework reported an increase in their self-reported skills in collaboration and flexibility as well as increases in their self-confidence. ...
... Findings from our second study reinforced previous observations that participating in theatre improvisation enhances learners' self-confidence and oral communication skills 6 as well as their ability to think creatively. 2 An important aspect of the second study was the incorporation of a debriefing session, which allowed participants to reflect upon and share their experiences. Here, participants observed that they enjoyed contributing to a group, experienced an increased comfort level in ambiguous situations, felt more present in the moment and expressed interest in sharing their experience with others. ...
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Objective To evaluate the relationship between training in theatre improvisation and empathy, communication, and other professional skills. Methods Undergraduate and graduate students who were participants of a 10-week summer undergraduate research program engaged in theatre improvisation techniques during a 3-hour workshop. In Study #1, a de-identified, self-report questionnaire (known as the Empathy Quotient) was administered prior to and following the workshop. Paired sample 2-tailed t-tests were performed to evaluate pre- and post-test scores. To identify additional benefits of engaging in theatre improvisation techniques, Study #2 was performed. Here, a survey was administered to the participants following their completion of the workshop to assess the impact on their personal growth and professional skills. An additional survey was administered at the end of the 10-week program to evaluate all program activities. Results Study #1. Paired t-test analyses indicated that pre-test versus post-test Empathy Quotient scores were not significantly different, implying that participation in the theatre improvisation workshop did not impact empathy. Study #2. Survey results indicate that participation in the theatre improvisation workshop encouraged feelings of support by peers and creative thinking as well as increasing communication skills. Conclusion Incorporating a theatre improvisation workshop into educational programs for pre-medical and pre-biomedical students is of value for enhancing self-confidence, oral communication skills and ability to think creatively.
... Drinko (2013b) and 3 to a heightened perception of subtle verbal and nonverbal cues from pupils and, ultimately, to better ensemble collaboration. Furthermore, medical education (Gao et al., 2018;Hoffmann-Longtin et al., 2018), clinical social work and psychotherapy (Romanelli et al., 2017;Romanelli & Tishby, 2019), marketing skills (Mourey, 2020), public speaking competence (Casteleyn, 2019), and organisational creativity (West et al., 2017) have all reportedly benefitted from improvisation training. ...
Conference Paper
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Theatre-based improvisation includes a model of constructive communication, which has been applied to education, and in fields requiring interpersonal competencies. Here, we present a validation study of the Interpersonal Confidence Questionnaire (ICQ) developed to measure self-reported interpersonal confidence, that is, beliefs regarding one’s capability related to effective social interactions. Confirmatory factor analysis (n = 208) confirmed the 18-item measurement model of ICQ as satisfactory, with six factors contributing to interpersonal confidence: performance confidence, flexibility, listening skills, tolerance of failure, collaboration motivation, and presence. The questionnaire showed discriminatory power, acceptable composite reliability, and strong test–retest reliability. The immediate and long-term impact of six improvisation interventions (n = 161) were measured using ICQ. Improvisation interventions resulted in improvements to interpersonal confidence, performance confidence, and tolerance of failure relative to controls, and an improved performance confidence persisted over time. This study provides initial evidence on the validity and reliability of the 18-item, 6-factor ICQ as a self-report measurement of interpersonal confidence, which may increase following improvisation training.
... It enables students to know more about digital marketing and digital skills to be equipped for their future careers. Digital Marketing subject also serves as an opportunity for students to use their creative ideas in proposing better campaigns together with different technological devices for digital marketing Mourey, 2019). All these impacts shall help students to have a higher chance of getting employed in the future. ...
Chapter
This chapter first briefly discusses the expected learning outcomes (i.e., skills and competencies) in entrepreneurship education, including creativity, innovation, industry-specific knowledge, decision-making, risk-taking, problem-solving, leadership qualities, ethics, and social responsibility. Next, the chapter examines whether the conventional entrepreneurial curriculum successfully contributes to the academic and social goals and meets the needs and expectations of students and society at large. It also presents a discussion on why the recent socio-cultural, technological, pandemic-related changes, including mass digitalization, working remotely or working from home, asynchronicity and global communities of practice, demand new approaches to enhance learners’ experience and maximize the achievement of learning outcomes in post-secondary entrepreneurship education. Then the chapter explores artificial intelligence (AI), such as the virtual classroom, AI Tutor, interactive smart boards, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), simulation, and big data systems, as a disruptive technology in education. While computer systems with ‘intelligence’ are already performing many tasks that were commonly associated with humans, there are growing interests, concerns and uncertainty regarding the wider application of AI in education. Accordingly, the chapter includes a discussion on the trends in AI adoption in education and how AI is likely to reshape curriculums, teaching and assessment, as well as its positive and negative impacts on teaching and learning. Further, this chapter explores the enormous potential of AI specifically in entrepreneurship education. A rich discussion is presented on the possibilities and conditions for an effective instructor-AI collaboration that can make an important contribution to all the key areas of teaching and learning in entrepreneurship education, such as the curriculum, instruction, assessment and feedback. An instructor-AI collaboration has the potential to improve curriculums, pedagogical practices, learner motivation and engagement, which are critical to achieving learning outcomes. The chapter concludes with the argument that while integrating AI in entrepreneurship education is capital intensive, it is worth investing in instructor-AI collaboration as it facilitates the progress of learners by providing them with customized learning support without unduly limiting individual choice.
... High school students in an improv class (versus a writing class) showed increased word and sentence usage (DeMichele, 2015). And, college students in an improv (versus consumer behavior) class showed increased creative fluency and greater self-efficacy on a marketing task measure (Mourey, 2019). ...
Thesis
Mental health interventions are severely underutilized for a number of reasons, including high costs and social stigma. An alternative non-stigmatizing method to address many trans-diagnostic psychotherapeutic goals (e.g., psychological flexibility in Hayes, Luoma, Bond, Masuda, & Lillis, 2006; Bermant, 2013) is modern American improvisational theater, which has its roots in the 1920s as a tool for facilitating personal and social development (Steitzer, 2011). It has been suggested that improvisation training may reduce anxiety (Krueger, Murphy, & Bink, 2017; Phillips Sheesley, Pfeffer, & Barish, 2016); however, no prior study has examined the relationship between improvisation trainning and social anxiety. Further, no study has explored whether improvisation promotes tolerance for uncertainty, which has been linked to reduced anxiety and shown to explain variance in social anxiety (Boelen, & Reijntjes, 2009). Further, positive effects on mood have been identified in both improvisation and social interaction treatments (Lewis & Lovatt, 2013). This dissertation aims to empirically test whether improvising might benefit psychological health and explore reasons why. Chapter 2 evaluates an existing improvisational theater training program created by The Detroit Creativity Project called The Improv Project, which teaches life skills through improvisational theater to middle and high schoolers in Detroit public schools. Specifically, we find that participating in an improv course predicts reductions in social anxiety. Further, social anxiety does not appear to be a barrier to participation in the project. However, as a field study of an existing program, this method lacks a randomly assigned control condition. Chapter 3 follows an experimental paradigm from previous research linking improvisation training to improvements in divergent thinking in the laboratory (Lewis & Lovatt, 2013). We examine whether a short exposure to improvisational theater training can increase tolerance of uncertainty, shown to predict reductions in social anxiety during cognitive behavior therapy (Mahoney & McEvoy, 2012). We find across two experiments that a brief session of improvising causes improvements in uncertainty tolerance and divergent thinking, as well as affective well-being, compared to a social interaction control. Further, these relative gains appear to depend on which specific features of the improv condition differ from the social interaction control condition. As an experiment with random assignment to condition, this work offers desirable features for internal validity, but lacks generalizability (Cook, Campbell, & Shadish, 2002). Chapter 4 tests the relationship established in Chapter 3 between improv and uncertainty tolerance back in the field setting. Specifically, we find that participating in an improvisational theater program for adolescents (described in Chapter 2) predicts increases in uncertainty tolerance, and replicate the Chapter 2 analysis linking improvisational theater training program with reductions in social anxiety symptoms. Additionally, we find that the increase in uncertainty tolerance in this study also predicts reductions in social anxiety. Taken together, this research provides the first empirical evidence that improvisational theater training benefits those with social anxiety problems, and that this is likely in part because engaging in improvisational theater exercises causes increased tolerance of uncertainty.
... These solutions were subsequently assigned randomly to other participants for their input, and to build and improve the concepts received using the improvisation theater technique of "yes and . . ." (Crossan, 1998;Moshavi, 2001;Mourey, 2020). Participants could further refine and adjust their ideas before final submission. ...
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Idea generation and brainstorming are most effective when conducted in groups and in person. However, in‐person co‐creation activities have many limitations. The digital environment provides opportunities to ideate remotely and to enhance creativity. We designed an online experiment to assess the impact of brainwriting on the effectiveness of ideation. Our intention was to determine whether remote digital brainstorming could improve ideation, harnessing diversity in experience and knowledge while problem solving. Results revealed that unusual and novel ideas occurred in approximately 53 percent of cases using our simulated environment. Compared to the presession control activity, ideas generated were more sophisticated and included improvement in all cases. Our experiment demonstrates that digital brainwriting can significantly improve the quality and quantity of new ideas.
... Sales educators and trainers often use applied scenarios, case studies, role plays, and live action simulations to increase engagement and enhance performance outcomes. Improv is considered to be a powerful experiential technique and may provide benefits above and beyond those realized by more common approaches to education (Mourey 2019;Rocco and Whalen 2014). Improv refers to spontaneous scene work in which participants invent or discover the dialogue and action as they perform. ...
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