Most of our improv for business workshops have something to do with collaboration. At its core, improv is a communication skillset that teaches and practices collaboration. The core skill of improv is “Yes, And….” You may have heard of that. It’s not quite in the drinking water, but it’s getting more common. In a nutshell, the “Yes” is accepting whatever your partner says or does. The “And” is building on that. When both people are doing this, it’s deeply generative and collaborative. In doing actual improv, where there are no limitations or repercussions, it’s easy to “Yes, And”. You can say Yes to anything, it’s play.
And then there’s Life. Or Work. With real people. Where outcomes matter. Where you have opinions.
Flashback a few years: I’m teaching in the MBA program at USF, I’m on the phone with the two other professors co-teaching the class with me. We’re mid-stream, designing an improv exercise for the students to practice a concept around consulting. I’m not being a great collaborator. I’m pushing back, saying lots of “no’s” and generally driving my idea. After about three minutes of head-butting, one of the other professors says something like, “You really want this exercise to go well, don’t you?”
I stop in my bulldog tracks. My whole body relaxes and I feel my breath return. I even laugh. The transformation was instant.
He had found the “Yes.”
That’s the trick. With applied improv, we practice literally saying “Yes” to all offers. In life and business, often the “Yes” is simply seeing your partner. We went on to collaboratively design a solid new applied improv exercise for the students.
So find the “Yes.” It can work wonders. Take it from me, an occasional bulldog.