Have you ever been to an improv comedy show? The nature of these performances is that the entire scene is on the fly, and the actors continue to deliver no matter how absurd or unbelievable the content or scenario becomes. The troupe works collaboratively as they dive fully into their work, not letting denial or hesitation get in their way. It’s not uncommon for companies to have their teams trained in improv techniques (I went through a nerve-wracking 6-session training a few years ago!) as this ability becomes more and more necessary to manage our ever-changing work landscape.
One of my very favorite improv rules is the simplest – “yes, and.” This powerful statement banishes denial and invites adventure and possibility. Imagine (yes, pull out your creative caps) that I say to our CEO Nicole, “Hey! Don’t you love flying in this alien spaceship? Look out the window – a two-headed unicorn!” As we roll through the scene she might say something back like, “Yes! And, we better speed up – that two-headed unicorn looks like he’s trying to crash our ship!” By saying yes (acknowledging the value of my thoughts) and and (building upon what I provided and adding richness to our journey) the scene is able to progress. Contrast that with a response like, “uh huh…” or even worse, “nah, we’re just in a regular car,” and the scene is a total dud.
That’s how “yes, and” works in an improv setting – but how can it translate to your daily work? Easy. Think about the next time you’re problem-solving a particularly tricky situation. Instead of shooting down ideas that aren’t immediately feasible, or even just acknowledging solutions and then moving on without properly digging in, try saying “yes, and” as you build upon the idea and explore the opportunity presented. Or, consider the last time you were meeting with a colleague or stakeholder. When presenting as part of a team, the pressure can be on – you want to make sure you’re representing yourself well and that your team does the same. So what if a team member says something you don’t agree with, or brings up a topic you don’t want to focus on during this meeting? Instead of shutting them down (this is awkward and makes you look like you’re not on the same page as your colleague), sprinkle in a “yes, and” – “Yes, Nicole, we are preparing something exciting for our ALV clients and their loved ones in the new year. And, we have a meaningful opportunity for our investors to consider in the here and now.” This quick phrase can provide powerful reframe and direction during meaningful conversations.
Bet you never thought you’d be getting an improv lesson in an ALV blog post! Yes, and…bet you’re glad you did.
If you are interested in learning more, here are some of our favorite resources:
- Read: Yes, And … 5 More Lessons In Improv-ing Collaboration And Creativity From Second City (5 min)
- Place a hold at the library: Bossypants by Tina Fey (get the audiobook if you can; she references her improv training throughout)
- Watch: Getting to Yes, And with Brené Brown (39 min)
- Read: Five Things that Kill the Scene in Improv and in Life (4 min)
- Read: When it Comes to Ideas, Fuel Them Don’t Dilute Them, by ALV CEO Nicole (4 min)