Yes And: How Improv’s Core Principles Help Boost Your Career
Imagine standing on stage, facing at least hundreds of people waiting for you to do something funny or exciting. The catch is you’re not given a script or detailed instructions aside from a prompt asked from the audience that will somehow lead somewhere. Nervousness fills every part of your body, but the reassuring stares and smiles given by stage mates comfort your beating heart. It’s showtime.
Improv or improvisational theater is the art of acting out scenes and stories with only suggestions serving as a guide to what can happen. No two shows are alike or can be repeated. Topics range from anything under the sun from the tales of a commercially licensed truck driver applying for a job opening to how a spoon can save the world. The likes of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and the talented cast of the hit tv show Whose Line Is It Anyway have brought improv into the consciousness of the modern person. They practice the art form’s core principles like “Yes, And” which can easily be applied in the business world. Here are some key concepts of improv that can help boost your career.
- Be in the moment and listen well.
There’s no time to think and be anxious about the future on the improv stage. You’re most likely busy listening well and being alert for “offers” other players are giving you to be able to respond and build a cohesive narrative with them. Every line, movement, and facial expression are clues to how the story will unfold. In the business environment, active listening and positive collaboration are sought after skills by employers. These are, after all, the core of effective leaders as they lead to engaged employees and happier customers. People feel validated and valued when you give them one’s undivided time and space.
- Make your partner look good.
Improv is not a one-man show, and neither is building a business. You rely on people’s strengths to cover for your weaknesses and vice versa. An environment where support and trust are present can bring the team to greater heights much more than one person using others for their gain. If you can trust your team members to catch you when you fail, you can pour more energy into pursuing creative and innovative mechanisms to achieve goals.
- Use your fear as a stepping stone.
Everyone will be a beginner at multiple points of their lives, especially when learning something new and venturing out of one’s comfort zone. Improv can help you be comfortable in the possibility of failure and how to work around it. Failing is a part of life, and it is in those moments can your true potential shine. Who knows what great discovery one can make when curiosity and spontaneity are given the freedom to roam?
- Show. Don’t tell.
Anyone can say they will change their lives and reach their potential, but it takes a level of commitment and tenacity to do it. No one at work will be impressed if you’re all talk with no bite. Following through with what you say will show your colleagues and bosses that you’re dependable to get things done. As in improv, it’s more interesting to see performers act out a scene rather than embark on a long monologue.
Practicing improv can be nerve-wracking due to the uncertainty and lack of control with circumstances, but such is the definition of life. It is about letting go and trusting in yourself, others, and the universe that you can pull through. Skills learned in improv such as active listening, collaboration, curiosity, and teamwork, are easily translatable to the corporate world.