If you’re at all familiar with improv comedy, then you know that “Yes, and…” is the number-one rule in performing improv. “Yes, and” means always to accept what you’re given and add to that idea by contributing another bit of information. It’s a give-and-take that is the basis of all Improv 101.
Being in the Rapid Delivery Improv Troupe for several years taught me that improvisation techniques can go beyond what you do on a stage; the confidence developed when performing carries over into your personal life and the workplace. Applying these improv techniques at work can also help breathe life into your brainstorm sessions, create a more relaxed office setting and inspire more introverted employees to break out of their shells.
If you’re like me, then you get bored of traditional brainstorming tools and techniques, like word webs or clouds. Applying a little “Yes, and” can turn your session into something new and exciting. It’s super easy, too! Here’re the rules:
Rule #1: Always say “yes” to an idea and keep building on that no matter how ridiculous it sounds.
Rule #2: Every idea is valid. Listen carefully and roll with anything and everything.
For example, let’s say your team is tasked with naming a new wine and cheese café. One brainstormer says, “How about Cheese Wheel?” The next person says, “Yes, and they have wheels of cheese.” The next, “Yes, and the wheels of cheese are on Lazy Susans.” The next, “Yes, and they have waiters on roller skates.” And so on and so forth. It might seem a little weird, but following one track of an idea allows your team to watch the thought develop and inspire new possibilities. This practice will force your team to think outside the box and enable the development of more interesting concepts.
Communication & Collaboration
As an improviser, I’ve learned to listen closely to my stage-mates when we’re in a scene together. If I talk over them, the scene falls flat and goes nowhere because we have two diverging ideas. In a scene, everything your partner says is a gift of information that propels you forward. It’s my job to make my scene partner look good, which builds trust and allows them to say anything—even the most outlandish tidbit—and know that I will back them up.
Commitment is another player in improv. When you take on a character in a scene, you have to be committed to that choice and have conviction. If not, the audience can sense you faltering, and the illusion of the scene fails.
Building trust and showing commitment in your office is integral to a thriving environment. Knowing you can rely on each other for more information or different perspectives when you’re stuck in a rut makes the company dynamic even better. If you disagree with a colleague, make sure they know you support them but are trying to improve on a situation. Commit to working together to make the best solution.
3 Improv Games to Incorporate at Work
I know I’m not alone in saying that working in an office setting tends to get “silo-ish” in the way that most people resort to digital communication vs. face-to-face interaction. Improv can help bring the team together and inspire face-to-face talking and bonding.
Below are some of my favorite beginner warm-up improv games that will help loosen up your team and shake out the negativity and rigidity of a desk job. Getting up on your feet for 15 minutes can help lead to a more relaxed and focused rest of your work day. Most importantly, these games will encourage laughter, which makes everyone happier.
Sit or stand in a circle and ask for a suggestion for a fairy tale or children’s story that everyone knows. The goal is for your whole group to tell that story chosen by only saying one word at a time. Going in a circle, each person will say one word to form a sentence until the story is narrated to completion. Not everyone will have a fun word, so it’s okay to say “a” or “the.” When the story feels complete, one person will need to say, “The” followed by the next person saying, “End.”
Standing in a circle, one person starts by saying a generic headline, something that you would read in a news article. For example, “High school makes national championship.” The next person has to begin their headline with the last word from the previous person. They would start their headline with, “Championship.” The game ends once everyone has gone through twice.
What Are You Doing?
Stand in a circle. One person will go in the middle and start acting out a simple action. Another person from the circle steps in and asks, “What are you doing?” The person acting has to reply with an action he/she is NOT doing such as “Mowing the lawn.” Then, the “asker” must start doing that action of “Mowing the lawn.” This repeats until everyone has done an action.
What are some of your favorite ways to creatively engage your team in an awesome brainstorm sesh? Drop your suggestions in the comments below!