“What scares you and excites you at the same time?” This was the question a group of us were discussing at PK about six months ago. I knew my answer right away – improv! It turned out another PKer had the same answer, so after further discussion, we decided to team up and face our shared fear over at the Brave New Workshop. Sixteen weeks of improv classes later, here’s what we learned from saying “yes, and.”
1. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.
To say that improv takes you outside of your comfort zone is an understatement. It thrusts you into a deep sea of unknowns where you’re forced to confront your fears and take risks. You can only survive – and succeed – by being fully present in the moment, practicing active listening, embracing the unknown, and being fearless. The same skills are crucial in business. You’ll limit your growth and get leapfrogged by the competition if you only stick to what’s safe and comfortable. Instead, open yourself up to possibilities so you can spot and use them right away while others may miss them completely.
2. Be biased toward action.
Another sure way to fail at improv is to be timid and indecisive. You don’t have time to think; you simply need to react and commit to taking action. In the business world, we’re all too familiar with “analysis paralysis.” Developing a bias toward action helps you avoid that wasted time and effort. Get out there, try new things, and be open to making mistakes along the way. In the end, you’ll get farther, faster.
3. Never say no to opportunities.
Good improvisers always agree with their partner’s statement and build on it with something new. You won’t believe how strange – and liberating – it feels to have your team say yes to your every idea and mean it. This taught me to look for opportunities in everything that comes my way. It’s fine to aim for perfection but more important to have confidence in your team. They’ll work harder, and you’ll be more likely to succeed.
4. Focus on stories and relationships.
Telling personal stories and creating connections with your partner makes for a far more interesting performance than discussing material objects or distant events. It’s also a recipe for engaging brands. Human beings are drawn to relationships and emotional storytelling, and they simply won’t care about your brand if all you offer are proof points and rational arguments in favor of your product.
Your challenge: Shake things up by saying “yes, and.” Create new energy and growth in place of “business as usual.” Try these improv-inspired lessons, and see how far they will take you.