I’ve been taking improvisational comedy classes for a few years now. And, it unleashes my inner 10-year-old in short, imaginative bursts that nourish my creative spirit, help me see the value of contributions beyond my own, and make me a better listener. Improvisational comedy even enhances my performance in the workplace. And, it will do the same for you.
Creativity begets creativity. How? Quite simply, creativity begets creatively. So, an improvisational comedy weekend workshop truly does inspire new ideas come Monday morning. Plus, it’s way cheaper than therapy. But, the biggest value I find in improv training is in its potential to turn ordinary brain-drizzling sessions into stellar idea generating brainstorming sessions on steroids.
Yes, and. A lot of improv work is based on the “Yes, and…” concept. For a scene to work, you carefully listen to the other actor, accept his or her premise and build from there. The notion of “Yes, and…” keeps the scene moving forward. How often in brainstorming sessions do we say that no idea is stupid, only to shoot down every idea with a ton of reasons why it won’t work. Injecting a little “Yes, and…” into your work life keeps you pushing beyond to the place where the really original and fertile ideas grow.
Here’s how “Yes, and …” works in an improv scene:
Jill: Michelle, I haven’t seen you since we ran against each other in the last election.
Me: Jill, you know, I really appreciated that you decided to rig student test scores in your district because I don’t think I would have won without that New York Times story.
Jill: Ha! You know, it ended up to be a blessing in disguise–you winning the PTA Presidency–with the FBI coming in to investigate and all. I’m surprised you’re out.
Me: Good behavior.
And, so it goes.
Take “Yes, and …” into your brainstorming.
So what does “Yes, and …” do to your brainstorming? It shows you how to explore the merit in any idea–no matter how seemingly improbable–long enough to get to the gold. And, it helps you truly listen.
Often in brainstorming sessions, someone will hit on that one good idea that is intriguing and meets the objectives. Many teams will stop there. Here’s the reality though, good can mean death to great. Great creative comes from pushing to idea 9, 10 or 11 or even 22–to that idea so interesting that other teams solving the same challenge have yet to hit on it.
If you take “yes, and…” into your brainstorming, you give each idea a chance to be something more. You don’t have to spend a lot of time on each idea, but just enough to pretend for a second that it would actually work and to explore the possibilities.
Listen. No, really listen. And, with improv you listen. So often we don’t actually listen, we more wait until who ever is speaking finishes so we can speak—without ever letting in what they really said. For improv to work–for “Yes, and…” to work–you have to know what your scene partner just said. In this, lies the magic of improv that will lead you to understandings and ideas that you wouldn’t have other wise had.
How about a little game of “because”? How do you warm your team up for “Yes, and …” thinking. I suggest playing a few improv games. There are lots of books on improvisational comedy and Second City in Chicago even does excellent business training courses for teams. But, a fun game to get the light bulbs to go off around the concept is “Because.” It’s very easy to play. Simply form a circle and have one person begin with a statement (any statement at all), such as, “I saw a leprechaun on my way to Starbucks.” Then, the next person picks up from there building on the statement with because (again, with anything at all). So, it might be, “Because I saw a leprechaun on my way to Starbucks, I pulled out my cellphone and quickly dialed the National Enquirer.” Then, go around the circle adding to the story.
“Because” always takes ridiculous and hilarious turns you never could have predicted in your wildest dreams. Which is exactly what you want because at the end of it you understand the “Yes, and …” concept, you’ve had fun, you’ve listened to your teammates, and just maybe you’ve unleashed your inner 10-year-old along the way to a creative pot of gold.