Guest post by Michael J. Pallerino, taken from the April/May 2013 issue of our bi-monthly magazine, Connect.
So, how do the worlds of improvisation and business compare? Tom Yorton, CEO of Second City Communications (SCC), shows you eight improvisation techniques that can help your business.
No. 1: Seek Those “Yes, and …’ Moments
Improvisation is about affirmation, creation and mutual support. Its training is built on the concept of what it calls “yes, and” moments. That’s when other members of the group put an idea or proposition forward, the group affirms the proposition, and then additional information is added. This allows the team to reach its full potential before objections derail an idea.
No. 2: Follow Your Fears
Fear usually is an indication that something important is at stake.
People feel fear because they care about an outcome. In improv, actors are taught to “lean into” conflict, not walk away from it. This practice likely reveals something new.
No. 3: Plan Less and Discover More
The less you plan, the more you’ll discover; the more you plan, the less you’ll discover. Every organization wants to be known as innovative and creative. Yet,
most conditions that allow for innovation and creativity seldom are present. Standard routines and processes govern most daily work experiences. In improvisation, the absence of a plan allows room for discovery.
No. 4: Start in the Middle
Improv actors know that a linear, orderly progression makes for a boring scene. In business, people take great pains to lay things out in logical progressions. There is comfort in following the flow. But when there’s a crisis or need to innovate, success sometimes comes from taking leaps and making creative connections in the absence of perfect information and thoughtful preparation.
No. 5: ‘Bring a Brick, Not a Cathedral’
Employees don’t like to feel small and insignificant. This causes them to hold back ideas and feedback. In improvisation, seemingly small contributions are important to the whole. If each ensemble member brings something, the collective energy is greater than one person carrying the load. When your contribution matters, you’re obligated to bring something to the game.
No. 6: If One Idea Doesn’t Work, Try Another
In improvisation people move quickly. There’s little time to analyze or assess only time to listen and react. Consequently, ideas and inspiration come and go fluidly. Improv actors know that right and wrong usually is a false dichotomy; there are only possibilities and choices. Performers are rewarded by their willingness to support the ensemble and adapt on the fly to new ideas.
No. 7: Try Not to Top Someone …
…at least until you’ve equaled him. Because business usually is a competitive endeavor, people always are trying to one-up each other. This comes out of a fear of looking bad and falling behind in an internal competition. Someone else’s gain means your loss, which creates a stifling environment. In improvisation, the best way to “get fed” is to do some feeding of your own.
No. 8: Make Accidents Work
The world has a tendency to throw curveballs. The key is how you respond to it. In improvisation, the axiom “make accidents work” describes much of its existence. Unlike in variable data printing where every outcome is tightly planned, there is no such thing as a preordained outcome in improvisation. It’s about living in the moment. Learn to embrace the possibilities that “accidents” offer.