"There is only one way to improvise: yours" - Jimmy Carrane and Liz Allen, Improvising Better: A Guide for the Working Improviser
Find your improv super strength—the thing that you do better than anyone else. In business, companies differentiate to provide a competitive advantage. Apple differentiates on innovation and design. Nike differentiates with R&D and athlete sponsorships. Toyota does operational efficiency and quality. These companies are focused on what makes them different. Unfortunately, when it comes to personal development, there is a tendency to focus on weaknesses rather than strengths. This approach is misguided because improving a weakness often requires more effort for less benefit.
“When we're able to put most of our energy into developing our natural talents, extraordinary room for growth exists” ― Tom Rath, StrengthsFinder 2.0
A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats
Work on what you are good at, and you will get better at the rest. For example, if you are good at expressing yourself using physicality, then lead with it. Let it be the source of inspiration for your character, emotion, and dialogue. Lead from a place of strength to overcome weaknesses.
You can excel at one aspect of a scene to the point where the other aspects don’t really matter. I have seen terrible singers pull off amazing improvised songs. How do they do it? They call on a strength, such as their ability to express emotion or character. Drawing on their Improv Super Strength has the instant benefit of making them a better singer by increasing their level of confidence and commitment. Alternatively, similar improvement gains could be achieved with months of vocal training.
Where Can I Find My Improv Super Strength?
Strengths can be anywhere, but here are some suggested areas to start your search:
If you are having trouble identifying your Improv Super Strength, check out the Periodic Table of Improvisation to help generate ideas of where to look. Try to identify the strength of an improviser you admire. Finally, ask your director, coach, or fellow troupe members to help you find your strength. Once you know what it is, don't be afraid to use it. Paradoxically, you might just find that focusing on your strengths will improve your weaknesses and make you a better all around improviser.