Episode 3 – The Brady Bunch and Unconscious Bias

In this episode, Allison and Jim discuss the different types of unconscious bias, and how they play out in the world. Also, a quick story about the Brady Bunch.

Yes, And-ing Unforeseen Obstacles in Dangerous Territory

Imagine yourself on a week-long trip to the beach. The sound of waves crashing, seagulls cawing, dolphins chattering all around you. You make your way back to the beach house to comfort, and safety… or so you think.

At DuMore, both Allison & Jim have a personal ritual – an annual week at the beach with family!  It’s something we both look forward to at least once a year.  Since DuMore doesn’t own our own beach retreat (yet), our families must choose a rental home sight unseen.  Sure there are pictures on websites, but there’s always a number of surprises awaiting us when we open the rental house door. This is particularly true if you’re traveling with younger children.  

Allison recently spent a week away and was joined by her stepdaughter and her family, including two little boys, ages 8 and 2.  Entering the rental, everything seemed fine at first glance. Beautiful view, adequate space for everyone, easy beach access, and a wonderful screened porch overlooking a lagoon and rookery with about 12 different species of birds.

But, what at first glance seemed like a perfectly fine and safe environment, quickly revealed obstacles and dangers they had not anticipated.  None of the home’s cabinetry had door handles or knobs – meaning every single cabinet was easily accessible to the 2-year-old.  The kitchen, wet bar, and bathroom cabinetry were quickly opened, their contents plundered through and distributed onto the floor or a nearby box or basket.  Scrabble and Domino tiles were flung everywhere. Monopoly pieces (choking hazard) had to be quickly gathered up and hidden away.

And the glass! So much glass! Coffee table, dining table, end tables, and doors – all glass!  And not glass that was encased precisely into the frame of a tabletop – no, glass that was just laid atop a table, meaning sharp and hard glass corners off the side of each, some of them at the level of a 2-year-old’s forehead.  

And that beautiful rookery lagoon?  It was also the home of gators! Yep, real life alligators onsite.  Sure, they were a marvel to watch lazily float down the lagoon, but we made sure to keep the kids out of the backyard, even though it was fenced in.

Add to that list the number of jellyfish on the beach, blue crabs in the water, the potential splinters in all of the wooden walkways, 2 sets of open stairs to climb to reach the front door, and you’ve got a full-blown safety watch on your hands.

So many unforeseen dangers that required serious navigation to make sure the little guys were safe.

New territory and navigating unforeseen obstacles!  It reminded us of a story recently told to us by a dear client.

This client, let’s call them “Jamie”, began a new job a few weeks ago.  The new position happens to be at a previous place of employment for Jamie so the assumption was that they would “know the ropes”, and the job itself seemed like a “dream’ one.  However, upon arrival in their new position, Jamie quickly uncovered unforeseen dangers in this new territory.  And, as was shared with us over coffee, they navigated through these dangers through the power of “yes, and”.

Jamie described an organizational chart that had been completely disrupted between the time they interviewed for the position and the day they started.  Members of the leadership team had left during that time period – leaving everything in disarray. The most senior executive was the only one left to guide the mission, but they also were new to the team, meaning they were still learning their new role with many unforeseen obstacles popping up daily for them as well.  Important documents like calendars, policy and procedure handbooks, job descriptions, financial balance sheets, and budgets were all MIA. Nothing had been left behind by the departing members of the team that would help Jamie and the executive know how to run their department. So basically operating blindly.

Jamie shared that putting on their “yes, and” thinking hat for the first 12 weeks on the job was what helped problem solve and get creative in the end.  And to accept this new reality, filled to the brim with unforeseen obstacles.

Here’s how Jamie shared:

“There are no guidelines to help me understand my role and the roles of others.  YES, AND………I get to make connections internally with colleagues outside of my department who can help me by sharing best practices or internal resources for guidance.”

“There are people coming to me asking for my help because they know that I worked in the organization before and they are desperate for my expertise in the functional areas I do know well, even though they are not on my team.  YES, AND……….finally people are treating me with respect because of skills, knowledge, and efficiency, i.e. I get stuff done”.

“Because of the departure of other members of the team prior to my arrival, I am currently responsible for tasks outside of my job description.  YES, AND………. I have had the courage, to be honest with our senior executive and we came to a mutual agreement as to how long the extra service is expected and compensation for the same.”

Jamie could have left the job immediately upon assessing these unforeseen obstacles.  However, they knew that long-term, the reward for navigating obstacles via “yes, and,” would be to their best benefit and would help strengthen the team and the organization, making them a s/hero!

Allison’s family took risks by renting a home fraught with obstacles. So the family had to “yes, and” those sharp angles and scary wildlife by making the little guys aware of the dangers and being intentional in our navigation, like only visiting the beach at low tide when the jellyfish were clearly visible, making crab watching a sport, and making sure everyone was wearing their shoes on the wooden walkways.. The reward was a relaxing few days watching children experience the ocean, wildlife, marshes, and great seafood! Jamie took a risk and stuck to a job that they could have easily abandoned in those first few weeks, knowing, however, that they could navigate to a better end by being in the moment and figuring out what’s next through “yes, and”…..

Episode 2 – What does DuMore do?

In this episode, Allison and Jim discuss what DuMore Improv does in the business world and why we are a blast!

The DuMore Improv Podcast is Allison Dukes Gilmore and Jim Karwisch, two coaches, facilitators, trainers, and speakers in the space of Leadership, Experiential Learning, Gamification, and of course, Improv.

Episode 1 – Warm Lemon Water aka Accepting Without Judgement

In this episode, Allison and Jim take a deep dive into what makes acceptance possible, even when you don’t agree.

The DuMore Improv Podcast is Allison Dukes Gilmore and Jim Karwisch, two coaches, facilitators, trainers, and speakers in the space of Leadership, Experiential Learning, Gamification, and of course, Improv. Join us today as we riff on the idea of Acceptance without Judgement.

The Artifact Effect

Jim’s first experience with the Artifact Effect, (an in-house DuMore term, so don’t bother googling it) happened a week after his twelfth birthday party. He was having a conversation with his mom, and he kept looking down at his wrist, admiring his brand new shiny black Casio digital watch. His mom saw him do this several times and then paused the conversation.

“Do you have someplace to be, Jamie?” she asked.

“No. Why? Mom, I’m listening,” he said, confused.

“Well, you keep looking at your watch and when people look at their watch it means they either need to be somewhere else or don’t want to be where they are.”

In this particular case, Jim wasn’t focused on the time; He was checking out his brand new tech, but how often is that really true? People look at their watches when they are worried about time or because time doesn’t seem to be moving. Looking at an artifact betrays our intention and feelings.

So why is this important? And who wears a watch anymore? Don’t people just look at their phone for the time?

Well, we’re glad you asked.

Prior to the tech boom, the Artifact Effect allowed easy navigation of relationships by sending helpful positive signals of intent while being able to avoid harmful signals of disinterest or split focus. For instance, if someone says something in a conversation and then you pull out a piece of paper and a pen, you are communicating that you perceive value in what they said. If someone says something and you look at your watch, it looks like you are bored or have someplace else to be.

Fast forward to the mid 2000’s, where the Artifact Effect met its match with the invention of the smartphone and a social media frenzy. Since then our intentions have become harder to read, our social cues harder to decipher, and our eye contact and full attention are harder to garner.

We should add, there are two audiences for this article: those who grew up in a world with no smartphone and those who grew up in a world with no encyclopedias. Our hope is to get everyone thinking about what signals we are sending when we engage with certain artifacts and what we can do to communicate our intent for more clear social interactions.

Together we will take a look at a handful of powerful artifacts, how they have been replaced, and how each swap-out has made things less connected and more confusing.

The Telephone

We start with the telephone because it has changed the most dramatically of all of the artifacts. In the 1980s, if the phone rang, you answered it. Unless it was dinner time and then everyone looked disparagingly at the phone and pitied the upbringing of whomever would call a residence during dinner time. If you placed your hand on a phone that wasn’t ringing, it meant that you were about to make a call. If someone saw you do this, they would know what was about to happen. Reaching for a phone meant one thing and one thing only – a phone call.

With the invention of the smartphone, when someone puts their hand on their phone, you have no idea what is about to happen. It could mean they are going to pick it up, put it in their pocket, and leave the conversation. They might be about to make a note of something. They may want to take a photo or record a video. When they reach for their “phone” they are reaching for a culmination of 100 different potential actions. So which assumption are we most likely to make if we don’t have a cue to follow?

The unfortunate answer: whatever pattern of behavior we have most observed and been affected by. We might assume a child is about to play a game or watch a video. We may believe our partner is going to read the news. But we have no idea, really – no idea at all.

The Typewriter

In the days when typewriters still sat on most desks, this artifact was an easy to discern signal. Like the telephone, the typewriter only did one thing. You didn’t reach for your typewriter if you wanted someone to pick up milk on the way home. Additionally, if someone were typing, they were working. You didn’t need to ask them if they were working, they just were. They were writing something, or perhaps transcribing something from notes, but they definitely were focused on a task and you could be sure that interrupting them was likely to stop their flow.

With the invention of the smartphone, we can still see when someone is typing. They almost always use their thumbs, and we can see them speedily choosing letters on their virtual keyboard. We cannot, however, tell the context of their typing. They could be playing a word game, they could be typing an email for work, or they could be making a social media post. These days, they are just as likely to be typing a message to someone that is sitting right beside them while they are pretending that they are capable of multi tasking their conversation with you.

The Pipe

This entry might seem peculiar, but a pipe is a perfect and seamless artifact for anyone that doesn’t mind being around pipe smoke. If you are in a conversation, and someone picks up their pipe, you don’t suddenly stop talking because you think they are going to be too distracted to talk. As the person packs their pipe, lights it, and smokes it, we know that they can do this ritual while still engaging in the conversation that is happening. For someone suffering from anxiety, preparing and smoking a pipe can give exactly the sort of busy motion they need to keep down their social nervousness.

We now live in a world where smoking a pipe in the middle of the traditional workplace would be unthinkable. Thanks to smartphones, many people deal with nervous fidgeting in their day by playing games on their phone or interacting with social media. Unfortunately, this activity is not one we can take part in while also giving our full attention to the relationship and conversation. When we choose to put our phone down and devote our attention to the moment, do we also forfeit any type of pipe preparation activity? Many facilitators and trainers have begun to incorporate fidgeting toys into their meeting environments. An explanation as to why they are useful is then given at the top of a meeting. As the facilitator says in this video, (http://youtu.be/aHlH8nIGUSE) – choosing to hand out fidget or stress toys during a meeting can help your attendees to focus better, enhancing the meeting and learning experience.

If you happen to be in a less formal meeting environment, communicating your use of a fidget device to the other person and bringing them in on why it helps you to stay focused on the conversation can be all it takes to deepen the understanding, enhance the relationship, and even possibly to give the other person a new tool to use for themselves in future.

The Coffee Cup

The coffee cup is an artifact that has stuck around and is in no way threatened by technological advancement. On the other hand, not everyone is consciously aware of how important or impactful the coffee culture is on relationships and connection. Having, and holding, a coffee cup can be something to do with your hands; it can be a comfort to hold, and it has no confusing messages attached to its use.

People do not get confused when you reach for your coffee cup. They understand the artifact and may even offer to perform the ritual of retrieving coffee for you or with you. They may want to join you in getting coffee, enjoy the atmosphere of a coffee shop with you, and getting out of the office and meeting at your local java distributor may even send positive energy into the conversation.

So if you are not a coffee drinker, consider joining the coffee drinkers in their rituals as a way to tap into this artifact. Take up drinking tea, flavored decaf coffee, hot chocolate, or hot water with lemon. Place yourself in the environment where others are conversing energetically and take part with your coffee cup proxy. Utilizing this Artifact Effect can be of benefit especially if the conversation you are having is not in itself exciting, or if you want to add comfort to an uncomfortable conversation.


The rolodex was once a must have on every desk in every office. It was a powerful resource and a symbol of networking power and connection. If you were reaching for a rolodex you were reaching for information. Flipping through the cards was an experience; a sign of your intention to help the person you are meeting with.

Other artifacts that have gone the way of the rolodex are the thesaurus, dictionary, encyclopedia, and phone book. Now all of this information is found on a computer or smartphone. As we have already discussed, picking a card out of a rolodex is a clear and powerful action. Picking up your smartphone or typing on your computer could easily be interpreted as losing focus, growing bored, or putting someone else who is not in the room ahead of the face to face connection you are making.

When someone picks up their phone to send you some information, have you ever experienced sitting and waiting for an extended period of time and still not getting the information you asked for? The person might have been distracted by a text, email, social media, or possibly even their move on Words with Friends. Sometimes they completely forget why they got on their phone in the first place. After reminding them of what they were going to do for you, the cycle may very well start again from the beginning.

The Newspaper

At one point, the newspaper was the great divider. Because of its construction, unfolding it creates a visual barrier between us and others in the room; it sends a signal that we are done with a conversation, wanting to have peace and quiet, or that we are passively listening to what is being said around but not to us.

If there is a new world Artifact that has the most similar feeling to picking up the newspaper and separating ourselves from the connection in front of us, the smartphone is the strongest candidate. When people pick up a smartphone they may not even realize that they are disconnecting from what is happening in the room.

So what can we do?

If you watch, you will see that people know exactly how to deal with seeing their friend get a phone call, the friend excusing themself to take the phone call, and the friend coming back to the conversation. It is all of the other uses of the smartphone that mangles the social cues.

In our opinion, having all of these actions take place on one device simply means that we need to use the smartphone with an understanding that it is the equivalent of 100 artifacts. We need to realize that when we are engaging with our phone in the middle of an engagement with a live human, the other person is more likely than not to misunderstand our use of the device. We should precursor our use in a way that communicates the missing Artifact Effect.

A few examples:

“I’m so sorry, but I just realized I forgot to send an important text.” This would be followed by pulling out the smartphone, sending the text without looking at other notifications, and then putting the phone away again.

“Can I get a picture of us together?” This could be followed by a photo and then the return of the phone to the middle of the table.

“We’re likely to be waiting here for a few hours. I was going to catch up on my social media.” This would allow the other person to feel free to engage in their own entertainment without any stress.

Verbal communication must take the place of physical Artifact Effects if we want to break the cycle of misinterpretation and fragmented social connection caused by constant smartphone usage.

One Last Thought

If you want to show someone that you trust them, are there for them, and want to be intentional about the moment you are sharing together, consider entrusting your cell phone to them. Jim does this with his wife when they go out to eat together, and it gives her absolute confidence in his intentions. Jim’s idea of handing her his phone to keep on her side of the table or to put into her purse while they ate has become its own Artifact Effect carrying its own energy and meaning. Does it make you feel anxious about the idea of giving your phone to someone or not having it for a short while? Ask yourself what that means about your connection to your phone and what it could mean for the relationships in your life. Let’s be intentional, communicate, and allow these devices to be tools, not barriers.

A Culture of Yes-and

This post first appeared on karwisch.wordpress.com

Culture is a balanced blend of human psychology, attitudes, actions, and beliefs that combined create either pleasure or pain, serious momentum or miserable stagnation. –Shawn Parr

I work in a culture of Yes-and. It is how I approach my life and my relationships. Yes-and is how I make my decisions and how I (when I am at my best) interact with my child.

In an improv scene, Yes-and guides us to accept what our scene partner is saying or doing and then adding to it. Yes=accept. And=add. Yes, you are a robot, and I am an inventor.

So what exactly does it mean to have a culture of Yes-and? For starters, “Yes” is not about Agreement, it is about Acceptance. Acceptance of things as they are, without any spin or shade, without the stories we tell ourselves to cope with hurt or fear, and without agenda. Next, ‘Yes” is about non-judgement. We accept people for who they are and we accept situations for what they are. “Yes” creates connection and flow.

When we say yes to things, we are not saying “I agree with you” we are saying “I am listening to you, I care, and you can trust me.” The “yes” in Yes-and is the start to anything great. I accept you. I am here and present with you. You are safe and you can share with me without fear. “Yes” creates safety and trust.

The “and” in Yes-and is the action. Because I accept you, and I am open to what is happening: I am able to clarify, add, illuminate, direct, plan and strategize with you by making small shifts in the idea or adding to the idea’s overall power and scope. With enough of a relationship built, we can help others find the gaps in their own ideas without pointing at the flaw and saying “bad idea.” Unfortunately, if we lack the acceptance and the trust of “yes”, the influence of “and” becomes very difficult to achieve. “And” allows for influence. 

I work directly with a wonderful yes-ander by the name of Allison Gilmore. Because both of us are consistently working with acceptance, non-judgement, and influence, we get a lot done, the right way, usually the first time, and in little time. If we at any time step into an area where our fear or miscommunication causes us to react negatively, we are able to find our way back to dialogue quickly by focusing back on the “yes” again.

Yes-and is not perfect. It is also not a cure-all. It is an approach to relationships, to ideas, to goals, and to their outcomes. The nice thing is that it does not need to be perfect. It is a self-healing and self-correcting process. When we create an environment where trust is possible and safety is assured we can find our way back to each other easily and with grace.

The great Yes-and lettering at the top of the page was created by http://www.daifoldes.com/ 

5 Reasons Why Conference Calls Are The Worst

Virtual meetings are our new way of life. They are beneficial to the company’s bottom line, and if we execute them correctly, they can be even more impactful than meetings held on site.

Video conferencing can help build trust and increase engagement in your teams without the need for a plane ride, gridlock traffic and a night or two away from family. So let’s dive into a few virtual meeting tips:

Conference Chaos

Conference calls can be the absolute worst when bad habits meet less than engaged attendees. One way to combat conference chaos is to create a set of meeting Norms. Norms are an understanding amongst the group of what will and will not be allowable when meeting. The trouble is, many teams create their list of norms separate from the group and result in work around behavior or people just sliding back into their normal habits. To avoid this, meeting leaders should set norms with input from the group in order to reach a consensus about virtual meeting behavior.

Terrible Tech

Waiting until the beginning of a big meeting and then discovering that your video isn’t working usually results in a loss of visual connection with your telecommuting teammates. Make sure that upon arrival, technology is the first priority. When possible, have someone arrive early to make sure everything is setup properly.

We Could Have Done This In An Email

Holding a meeting that could have been an email is a waste of time for everyone involved. Sending an email that should be a meeting is just asking for things to go sideways on you. Correctly evaluating when to send an email and when to have a meeting can help save everyone time and will help them stay more attentive during the meetings themselves.

Wrong Party Guests

Asking someone to sit on the other end of a phone or video chat when they do not need to be there creates a culture of multitasking and half listening. Once we train ourselves to do other things while on a call it can be a difficult habit to break. Making sure that everyone who is invited is truly needed on the call can be a great step toward full attention during meetings.

There Was Homework?

Sending out condensed readings to prepare for a meeting can help make the most of everyone’s time once they are online together. In order for this to work the meeting preparer should only send out the most pertinent info and encourage a culture in which reading prep is done before the meeting.

For more helpful tips on mastering your virtual meetings, consider DuMore’s Virtual Collaboration Workshop to help your team have powerful and effective meetings virtually.

View Our Workshop Catalogue

Allison and Jim

champagne toast

A Special DuMore Improv New Year’s Toast…

Cheers, friends! DuMore Improv’s favorite holiday is almost here – New Year’s Eve! We’re looking forward to good food, good buddies, lots of fun and games and an exciting newyear. We hope you are too!

Loading up your plate at the New Year’s Eve buffet table sounds easy, but coming up with the perfect party toast? Not so much. So we decided to help you out with a DIY mad libtoast. Share it with your colleagues, friends, family or strangers in line for the bathroom.

2016 New Year’s Toast

Happy New (noun)____________, everyone! I’m so happy to have my closest (plural noun)____________ here with me to share this (adjective)____________ moment. Today we (verb)____________ our (plural noun)____________ and look forward to a new yearof (noun)____________.

Once a year we (verb)____________ together to watch the (noun)____________ drop, stuff our bellies with (noun)____________ and then (verb)____________ on the dance floor until it’s time to (verb)____________.

So let’s raise a (noun)____________ and toast! May your (noun)____________ be forever (adjective)____________ and your (noun)____________ always be filled with(adjective)____________    (noun)____________.

Cheers & Happy New Year!
Allison, Jim & Elizabeth
toast new year
halloween candy

What Our Favorite Halloween Candy Says About Us

It’s Halloween week & we hope you’re ready to dig in to some spooky treats. Did you know that our favorite Halloween candy says a lot about our (or our co-worker’s) leadership style? Read on to see if you can spot the Snicker or Smartie in your group.
What Our Favorite Halloween Candy Says About Our Leadership Style
Candy Corn – A super sweet leader, but best in small doses
Snickers – A little nutty sometimes, but your team is always satisfied
Reese’s – A balanced approach to leadership and appreciate all perspectives
Dum Dums – This style can be mysterious, but it never fails to surprise and delight
Kit Kat – Loves shared leadership (and taking lots of breaks!)
Smarties – Thrives on change and having a lot of options.
Junior Mints – A team player and who always sticks together with their group.Favorite team outing — going to a movie!
Laffy Taffy – A committed leader who will chew on a problem until it’s solved.
Fruit – Not always the life of the party, but at the end of the day everyone feels great.
Hope you enjoyed our Halloween fun! To learn about REAL leadership styles, check out this Harvard Business Review article about common leadership archetypes.
Need help with your personal style or your team’s leadership skills? Schedule a quick discovery call with Jim Karwisch at jim@dumoreimprov.com or 404-272-1212.
Happy Halloween & we hope you get loads of your favorite candy!!
Allison, Jim & Elizabeth
candy comic
snoopy fall

The #1 Office Game Changer This Fall

Tired of your team turning on each other like fall leaves in New England?
Wish your teammates would bring some business-changing ideas to the table?
Wonder how you can get everyone’s energy level up for the Q4 push?
If that nip in the air is getting you excited about a new season, there’s a good chance your teammates are ready for a shift, too. Fall is a great time to usher in a fresh approach to doing business and subtly nudge your corporate culture in a new direction.

Adding improvisation skills and emotional intelligence to your playbook can instantly transform your team from ho hum to high energy. And even if you’re happy with your current culture, it’s never hurts to have a refresher on these 5 key elements of high-level collaboration and teamwork:

  1. Crystal Clear Communication
  2. Awareness & Empathy
  3. Radical Risk Taking
  4. Shared Leadership
  5. Positive Problem Solving
Hop on a quick Discovery call with us to explore how a culture tune-up can get your group psyched for a new season. Contact Jim Karwisch atjim@dumoreimprov.com or 404-272-1212 to set up a time to chat!
Allison, Jim & Elizabeth
snoopy leaf dance