We usually associate improvisation with our favourite comedy shows or something we might be forced to do when things don’t quite go according to plan. But improvisation techniques are also incredibly powerful when we use them in our day to day lives, when they are more about collaborating and building positive energy and momentum, rather than being funny.
We’ve worked with a number of actors who share these techniques with teams and it is amazing how much impact they have. One of the building blocks of improvisation is known as “Yes, and…” an approach that allows for anything to happen. Very simply, whatever your partner suggests, you resist any urge to disagree with it and regardless of what you were going to say, you accept what is presented to you and add to it, starting with a simple “Yes and …..”
In a work environment, we say no a lot, and have lots of different ways of saying it, one of the most frequent probably being “yes but…” It is often a way of playing safe and maintaining control. By saying “yes and” we accept that there is value in what our colleagues and partners are saying. It can result not only in new ideas but also in more productive and rewarding relationships.
In Forbes magazine Ed Herbstman, cofounder of the Magnet Theater says that “yes, and” can be the antidote to workplace negativity. “There is safety in saying no…. What we do is say, ‘Let’s follow that idea for a moment. Let’s ‘yes, and’ just for a moment, to see where it goes…. When you’re the person saying yes to other people, they start to bring you their best ideas,” he says. “When you’re meeting things habitually with ‘yes, and,’ with an energy of agreement, you transform the way people perceive you.”
So how about giving it a go?