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Now’s the time to learn a little improv

by on
in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

To paraphrase business writer Daniel Pink, the future will belong to those who can flex, adapt, empathize, tell stories and create.

Theater performers, whose stock in trade is flexibility, adaptability and creativity, could teach us a thing or two.

Kat Kopett is founder of a training and consulting company that specializes in using theater and storytelling techniques to enhance organizational performance.

Improvisers collaborate on the spot, Kopett says. By marrying our ideas and passions with whatever is happening in the moment, we can delight our customers and ourselves.

In other words, there’s never been a better time for creativity—and improv.

The single most important improv principle is the “yes, and” rule. It goes like this: Whatever your improv partner offers—an idea, an emotion, a gesture—you must accept and build upon it.

“‘Accept’ does not mean ‘agree,’” Kopett clarifies. “We do not have to like the offers. They may not be at all what we are expecting or want. But we are obligated to use them, simply because they exist.”

Working with the reality on stage is much like working with real-life realities. You may not like an imposed deadline or a new competitive threat. But like it or not, it exists. Once you accept what it is, you can move on to the “and” part to begin creating.

“Too often we waste time and energy ‘yes, but-ing’—arguing with or blocking the offers that we don’t like, or don’t see,” Kopett says.

“When we ‘yes, and’ we are able to build with whatever has come before.”

— Adapted from “How Improvisational Techniques Can Benefit Innovators,” Michelle James, Innovation Tools.

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