Flipping Assumptions: How you can have fun and learn about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion through Improv

May 11, 2021

Amanda Deiratani

Team Contributor

In this podcast, TeamBonding’s Rich Rininsland talks to Coonoor Behal, Founder and CEO of Mind Hatch, along with Greg Tindale and Eva Lewis, creators of an interview-based improv program called the White Privilege, Black Power Experience. The goal of the improv program is to help people discuss the sometimes difficult topics of diversity and empathy, and reveal how comedy — and improv in particular — can help break down some of those uncomfortable barriers to get real, meaningful conversations started.

Diversity: What’s improv got to do with it?

To understand why improv is so important to the White Privilege, Black Power program, it’s interesting to know how it got started. In the early 2000s, Greg Tindale was building a real estate business, while at the same time working as an actor and taking improv comedy classes. He quickly realized that the principles of improv were “the exact same as the [real estate] business books and business seminars, only better.”

That epiphany led to a new goal in life. “I … knew that I wanted to do something like that, to be able to show other people how these simple improv rules can make you better at your job and better at life,” he says in the podcast.

Eva Lewis, on the other hand, was working in politics — even working on the Obama campaign in 2008 — but had decided to take an improv class to “do something fun.” She had enjoyed going to performances while in law school in Chicago, so decided to try her hand at the skill herself as a way to relax.

From there, Lewis agreed to do a show — originally just a single show— where the two would ask honest questions of each other, and then use the skills that improv gave them to not only answer, but make it entertaining, which ultimately made it more meaningful since it allowed them to talk about deeper than expected subjects without feeling awkward or defensive. It broke down those initial barriers to hard conversations, and from that, “White Privilege, Black Power” was born.


Listen to this full Episode “Navigating Diversity & Inclusion in the Corporate World” on our Podcast page.

Everyone does improv (even you!)

“The thing with improv that translates into anything is that everyone does improv — this conversation we’re having is improvised. So the notion of trying to add a funny layer on top of that, and then another layer of trying to take on difficult subjects and making them accessible was challenging, but also fun,” says Lewis.

Coonoor Behal was also part of the improv scene, getting to know both Lewis and Tindale first as an audience member, and then later joining them on stage. But while she moved out of the area, she was aware of the collaboration and the “White Privilege, Black Power” program, “and I’d seen a couple of their videos online, and it was obviously a great format, using improv and comedy, and all the skills that improvisers like Eva and Greg are amazing at to draw light on topics [such as] race, gender, ableism, or LGBTQ identities,” says Behal.

She continued, “They were just doing really remarkable things with their incredible skill and charm to bring to life these [differences] that aren’t often brought to life. And I was extremely tickled when they reached out to me a couple of years ago and said, ‘we think this has a lot of play for organizations, and we would like to do it through Mind Hatch.’ So I was tickled, not only because I know and love Greg and Eva and loved the premise of the show, but also I always kind of knew in my gut that there was something there between improv and diversity work.”

That brought “White Privilege, Black Power” to the Mind Hatch family, to a wider audience, and to the world of corporate team building, using the format to help teams talk about difficult subjects like diversity, race, religion, and gender in a non-confrontational way, opening the door to connect on a human level.

On a mission to break down barriers and start conversations

White Privilege, Black Power is about more than just a single program — its goal is to help organizations solve complex business problems in more creative ways, as well as helping teams stay more engaged and work together more productively. The goal is to help brands embrace change and cultivate more inclusive cultures — which was a perfect fit for what Tindale and Lewis had in mind.

It’s about more than that though. Behal says that “DEI” — diversity, equity, and inclusion — is critical to more than just the company culture. “You need to be paying attention to DEI because all of that is instrumental to your bottom line.” She stresses that “To me, it’s equal parts creative thinking, but also just good business strategy.”

It’s about helping companies change to better serve their employees, but also breaking down the barriers of fear to even start the conversations. “Eva and Greg have done what lots of people feel is the hardest part, which is initiating and having these conversations,” she says. “And by virtue of them doing it, you all had a shared experience, and you’ve laughed at the same things. There’s a commonality there. … It’s doing a little bit of cognitive rewiring, to be like, ‘okay, like we can do this.’ And not only that, but we understand the value of it.”

Try the experience!

If you’re intrigued by the idea of using improv to help start those conversations and build those bridges, TeamBonding is now offering the “White Privilege, Black Power” experience. It’s a tailored, topic-driven virtual performance that brings Tindale and Lewis directly to your team and makes them part of the conversation. The experience also includes a 30- minute follow-up, where the performers will connect with your team to dive more deeply into some of the topics the performance brought up, and help relate that back to the workplace, and suggest actions that can be taken to improve areas where the company as a whole, and team members as individuals, can do better.

Listen to the entire podcast here, and learn more about DEI, “White Privilege, Black Power,” and improv as a business tool. And don’t forget to tune in every week to the TeamBonding Saves the World podcast for more insightful and entertaining topics that will help you improve your business, one event at a time.

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