5 Rules of Improv to Improve Your Business

By Chris Cosper

dateFri, Jan 16, 2015 @ 09:00 AM

In honor of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s awesome job hosting the Golden Globe Awards earlier this week, ImprovI’m inspired to share a few rules of improv they have taught us in their books and speeches.  You’ll be surprised how helpful these can be in real life and business, too.

  1. Agree. Being part of a team means listening to your teammates (or spouse, children, friend) with an open mind.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re always going to agree with everything everyone says, but it does mean that you should respect what the individual has suggested and consider how what they’re saying might work. Start with a YES and see where that takes you.
  2. Say “YES AND.” It’s not enough to just say yes to everything.  You have to add to the collective intelligence.  Don’t be afraid to contribute.  Everyone’s contributions are worthwhile.  The final solution, product, or outcome will be much richer if it springs from a discussion that includes the thoughts and ideas of everyone involved.
  3. Make Statements.  Don’t just ask questions all the time. (Leaders, don’t let this one confuse you.  In another blog, we talk about the importance of your “question to statement ratio” in your leadership role.  Please go read that blog and don’t take this as permission to boss everyone around.) This rule has a lot to do with a mindset of being part of the solution, not part of the problem. Don’t just ask questions and point out obstacles. Offer ideas, share facts and work on the solution with your team.
  4. There are no mistakes, only opportunities. Some of the best ideas come from accidents.  Of course, mistakes are made all the time - it’s just a matter of how you look at it and what you do with the mistake. If you make one mistake and learn a lesson that creates a solution to future problems you didn’t even know you might face, then it has become a beautiful, happy accident.
  5. Make sure you play with people who have your back.  Trust is huge.  Never sacrifice the health of your team for a quick decision or easy answer.  Take the time to build the type of team that will have each other’s back when the going gets rough (because the going always gets rough, eventually).  When that happens, you need to know that your team will pull together, focus on finding solutions, not placing blame, and make the adjustments necessary to keep your plan on track, take care of the customer or fix the problem.

Improv is fun, and Tina and Amy make it look easy.  But the truth is, it’s a very disciplined art.  One that we can all learn and benefit from if we take our time and act with intention.   Try applying some of these rules in your next weekly meeting and see what happens.


Executive Summary from Patrick Thean's book Rhythm

Chris Cosper


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