Professor Gabe Adams at London Business School is one of a growing number of academics that have seen the power of applied improv in the business world and integrated it into their curriculum. The students go from skeptical to evangelists in a single class. Applied improv can bridge the rigor of academic theory and real world practice in the classroom and prepare the students for the ambiguity that business life brings.
Prof. Adams asked me to teach status in her class Paths to Power which looks at many aspects of power. Status in improv, which is different than social status, looks at the behaviors and nonverbal communication that gives us authority or makes us approachable. Language still plays a role, but there is a whole world to explore when the dialogue is eliminated or constrained.
Status - a dynamic condition of a relationship or interaction
Social Status - a ranking of worth, value or importance
Even the simplest of exercises can start to explore the relationship of power and status. Dan Klein at Stanford University introduced me to a simple activity that asks students standing in a circle to take a single step forward and calmly say "Hello, my name is. And, I here." before stepping back into the circle. There are a huge number of variations that display the level of comfort the students have and their own relationships, in that moment, to authority and power. From humor, to rebellion, to simple and calm confidence to participate without changing the exercise or words - their actions speak loudly to the rest of the class as they observe.
Each student will take away their own lessons, insights, and learning from the class. However, one of my stated learning objectives was:
All human interactions are communication in the language of status. Making conscious choices in what you say nonverbally increases your chance of successful leadership.