Why Some in DFW's Corporate World Are Signing Up for Lessons From a Comedy Troupe

Welcome to the company retreat. This year, the bosses decided to take the staff to Hawaii, then to Mexico, Australia and finally to Dubai. All expenses covered. Journey, the Rolling Stones and Lil Wayne will headline.While the idea is outlandish, that was the point. It came from an improv exercise for about 40 managers of Mansfield-based AngMar Companies, which hired the comedy troupe Four Day Weekend to conduct a workshop on how to foster positive communication in the workplace.The employees met in Fort Worth in late January for a company conference, which included a team-building session led by improv comedian Frank Ford, a founder of Four Day Weekend."Every person here improvises," Ford told his audience. "Everybody here is an expert in an area you're not."Comedy may seem only fruitful for creatives, but Four Day Weekend and some experts say improv can be effective in strengthening trust and active listening skills among co-workers across all departments or industries.Companies like Southwest Airlines, Bell Helicopter and Japan-based Canon all have hired Four Day to help reinvigorate their flow of ideas.The program is designed to break down comfort zones and get people thinking as a unit, building on each other's ideas.That queasy feeling many employees get before speaking up at a meeting? Ford says it points to an issue plaguing the business world: If workers feel their ideas are unwelcome, they don't even try to share them. Four Day Weekend wants to change that.Not just for laughsNine cast members run the workshops, and companies can choose "off-the-shelf" services -- like emceeing for events -- or more customized sessions they can include within their own conferences.Emily Zawisza, Four Day Weekend director of sales, said potential customers can audit workshops before they book. Four Day sends questionnaires to the companies in order to drill down into whichever issues need improvement. Price, Zawisza said, varies with audience size and and other specifications.Clients may use the group's theatre in Sundance Square in downtown Fort Worth, where it also hosts live shows on the weekend, or cast members will travel to workshop venues booked by the companies.  Continue reading...

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