Improvise This!
by Mark Bergen,
Molly Cox and Jim Detmar
Book Review by Amy Coffin
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Mark Bergen, Molly Cox and Jim Detmar want to teach you "how to think on your feet so you don't fall on your face." Together, they've created a little book designed to show stuffy people (and not-so-stuffy people) how to add spontaneity to their daily lives. To put it simply, "this book will help you tap into your natural abilities to take chances and calculated risks by learning how to improvise." Got that?

The authors combined their improvisation and sketch-comedy skills to construct corporate workshops. These "playshops" as they're called are enormously successful. Improvise This! Is a collection of lessons and tips from these popular presentations.

This book is divided into eleven sections:

1. So, What Is Improv Anyway?
2. Breaking Barriers: Take a Flying Leap Over the Wall of Fear
3. Spontaneous Combustion: Igniting Your Creative Spark
4. In the Moment and Out of Your Mind
5. Active Listening: You Can't Hear the Sea When You're Inside the Shell
6. "YesAnd!" What You Don't "No" Won't Hurt You
7. Pro Choices: The Right to Laugh
8. Partly Cloudy with a Chance of Brainstorms: Creative Meeting of the Mines
9. Speaking of Speakers: Are You a Woofer or a Tweeter?
10.Throw Away the Script! How to Improv(e) Your Customer Service
11. Blackout! The End of the Beginning

Sandwiched within these sections are ways in which improvisation will help you in your workplace and beyond. The authors teach you how to say yes, how to say no, how to say yes when you want to say no and how to improvise your way out of any situation.

Readers may wonder why improvisation instruction is even necessary or worth the effort. The authors claim their programs are very successful. "When a group of people has a shared experience of fun and creative play, change occurs. People start to see things differently."

Improvisation exercises are provided throughout the book, but readers must be willing to participate in order for them to work. Based on the authors' presentation, I am sure this is a successful live seminar, but does that energy translate in print form? It will be up to the reading audience to decide.

Improvise This! isn't necessarily a business book. Just about anybody can benefit from the lessons. Even if the personal exercises don't work for you, it's easy to shape them to fit your individual needs.

Bergen, Cox and Detmar mention several companies which use their humor-infused philosophy. Unfortunately, the authors don't go into depth with how improvisation is used on a staff level and the end results of that use. Such information would strengthen the argument for spontaneous humor on the job.

Improvise This! provides some handy tips, but nothing earth-shattering or ground- breaking. The liberal use of wise-cracks makes the book entertaining and helpful. However, readers will have to bring their own enthusiasm (and a few gallons of coffee) to the table for 100% effectiveness. There's a valid argument for the creative use of humor in the workplace. I'm just not sure this book is the one that will convince your boss of the case.