If you’ve ever been to a comedy club, you’ve seen at least one improv performance. This is where actors make up a scene, completely on the fly, often using suggestions provided by the audience. This popular form of entertainment tickles the funny bone and allows audience members to blow off steam.
Creating good improv is more complicated than it looks—but at its core is the power of Yes, and… It’s this simple phrase that gives this actor’s tool the potential to boost your business.
This concept alone has immense value in business. Yes, and... keeps the door open for more conversation, shows agreement, and demonstrates an interest in problem-solving. Think of how powerful it would be if you had to find a way to agree in every meeting or negotiation. Instead of shutting down the conversation, you would be open to listening, seeking common ground, and collaborating.
Improv Skills That Are Critical in Business
Yes, and… is the number one rule of improv. As a participant in an improv scene, it’s your job to agree with any suggestion that your scene partner makes. If they say, “Our spaceship made a crash landing on Jupiter!” You agree with them, instead of saying, “That’s not a spaceship! That’s a bicycle!” Your role is to support the idea your partner suggested and bring it to life.
Good improv requires some additional skills that are critical in business, such as:
If your mind is in 1,000 places, you're not going to do well at improv. You must be in the moment, actively involved, and interacting with your partner. How often are you in a meeting thinking about what you’ll say next? Or on a conference call working on an upcoming presentation instead of giving the speaker your undivided attention? Everyone can benefit from improving their ability to focus on what is taking place right in front of them.
An improv performer gets lots of practice at thinking on their feet since that’s the nature of the art form. If you’re someone who gets nervous when your job requires you to speak about something you haven’t prepped for, improv can help you feel more comfortable winging it.
As you work on a scene, you might think you know exactly where it’s heading; until your partner throws in a major plot twist. Suddenly, you need to get rid of your preconceived ideas and head down another path. Rigid thinking is a creativity killer and a deal breaker in business. When you are open to new ideas and new paths, innovation occurs.
Improv is collaboration in real-time, taking place before the audience’s eyes. Each actor is focused on collaborating and building off the idea the group is creating together. No one is trying to stand out or be a star. Instead, improv is about supporting the other members of the group while contributing something of value that will help your partner shine. Wouldn’t collaboration in a business setting work much better if the goal was not to stand out as a superstar, but to set your team members up to excel?
If you aren’t truly listening as the scene unfolds in improv, you’ll be lost. An improv class can help you fine-tune your active listening skills. And, clearly, if people spent more time listening in business, we’d have shorter meetings with better results.
Improv is about creating a story that draws the audience in, usually to entertain, but sometimes to teach or to make us think about a social issue. Improv can help you develop your storytelling skills so that the next time you’re in a meeting, you’re more comfortable using a story to reinforce a point.
Improv can be a powerful tool that opens the door to collaboration and understanding while building stronger partnerships. The next time you feel like a business situation has stalled, start with, Yes, and… and see where the conversation goes.