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Learning Through Laughter - “A Night at the Improv” helps students create a climate of creativity and innovation

What does improvisational comedy have to do with leadership? That was the question asked and answered by approximately 115 students from the Larsen Leaders Academy who joined the One-Size-Fits-All comedy troupe at Lafayette Civic Theatre for “A Night at the Improv.”

“I started by giving a talk based on what we know about the science of leadership and creating a climate of creativity and innovation,” says Brad Alge, an associate professor of management and academic director of the Larsen Leaders Academy. “After that discussion, we broke our students into smaller groups and had facilitators lead them through an exercise where they had to improvise or think spontaneously.”

The evening ended with a one-hour performance by One-Size-Fits-All introducing students to improvisation and teambuilding. “They learned that creativity and innovation is messy,” Alge says. “You have to build a psychologically safe environment. You have to show vulnerability, take risks, be flexible, and be willing to experiment and try new things. Not everything you attempt is going to be successful.”

In addition to being experiential, the evening was also entertaining. “I kept scanning the crowd just to gauge students’ reaction to the night and every time I looked, they were smiling, laughing, and having fun,” Alge says. "We are fortunate to have the support of Marshall and Susan Larsen, whose commitment to leadership development makes events like this possible.”

Importantly, the event allowed upperclassmen in the Larsen Leaders Academy to help organize and plan the night’s activities. Gianna Stephan, a junior in the School of Management, was among them. “My role was actively engaging through recording behind-the-scenes videos from the event,” she says. “I also participated as an audience member for both the presentation by Professor Alge and the improv comedy show.”

“Part of leadership is holding our students accountable to take leadership roles for these events,” Alge says. “Event management and planning takes coordination and collaboration, so this was another opportunity for students to put their skills to work.”