Improv-ing Your Business

By Jaclyn Sorci
04.03.2012

Lesson #1: The Power of Yes… and!
When I began studying comedy writing and improvisation, I never imagined how applicable the lessons would be in other areas of my life. I knew the work would inspire creativity, spontaneity, and—we can only hope—improve my humor. But there has been so much more than that, and I can’t wait to share what I’ve learned in my blog series, “Improv-ing Your Business.”

Anyone who has taken Improv 101 will tell you (probably smugly) that the most basic rule of improv is to always say, "Yes!” In an improvised scene, your partner will say things that establish the reality within the scene. Saying yes doesn’t necessarily mean you agree with everything your partner says. But it means you are agreeing on what has been established and working together to move the scene forward.

Which brings us to the next part of “yes, and”—the “AND.” It’s not enough to agree with what’s been established. Once you’ve said yes, you have to contribute something new to continue to advance the scene.

For example, I might say, “I’m glad to see you’re finally wearing the shirt I gave you for our anniversary,” which begins to establish a relationship between the characters. If you said, “You didn’t give me a shirt,” or “No, I’m not,” you would stop the scene in its tracks. But if you said, “Ugh, I’m only wearing this shirt because I’m out of clean laundry,” well, now we’re moving.

I quickly noticed how valuable this lesson was at the office. Like many of you, I collaborate daily with co-workers, clients, and vendors. And as a marketing strategist, I am always sharing ideas and working with others to see which campaigns and tactics are the most creative and sticky. When someone tells you “no, that’s a bad idea,” or explains all of the reasons why something won’t work (before you’ve even tried), it knocks the wind out of the process. It squelches creativity and stops the conversation (and your business) from evolving.

You don’t have to agree with everything your teammates say. But when you’re working together to fix a problem or develop an idea, keep an open mind. Listen to your partner, and agree to work toward the same goal. AND—contribute something that moves the process forward. Add something to the discussion that is productive and thoughtful, and build on your partner’s established ideas.

In improv, in business, and in life—remaining open to the process leaves you available to experiences and opportunities you could never have planned.

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