In the nearly 20 years I’ve been working with groups, improv comedy is, without a doubt, the most transformational team building experience I’ve ever witnessed.
It’s much easier than ropes courses. It’s more immediately impactful than personality typing. It gets you out of your head and into the more creative parts of your brain—in an instant. Plus it just plain feels good to just plain laugh with your co-workers. And what could be better than laughing while advancing your business goals?

The true test of your ability to get the job done is when you’re working off script. How skilled is your team at dealing with the unexpected or innovating on the spot?

The reality is the skill of improvisation is something we can all hone, all the time. Here’s a simple exercise you can start using with your team today. It’s called “Yes, but …” or “Yes, and …”? It’s quick, painless, valuable, and fun.

What to do: Divide the group in half, giving them the task of planning a company party, where one half always says, “Yes, and …” after each team member suggestion and the other half always says, “Yes, but …” (5 minutes). In the debriefing, discuss who was most successful in the short time period and why.

The learning: Even at a basic level, finding common ground with your colleagues is important. An antagonistic relationship benefits no one and the judgment of a “Yes, but …” stifles team members.

Collaboration, creativity, and results grow out of an environment that is positive and affirming.

Tip: Stand in a circle and use “Yes, and …” every time you want to re-energize your brainstorming. Be consistent and persistent with it.

Think of “Yes, but …” or “Yes, and …” as an essential practice for earning your team a standing ovation. Ways to vary it and incorporate it into your day-to-day practices include:

  • Start all your routine team meetings with a quick round of “Yes, and …”—all you need is one person to kick it off with a statement or idea. Team members will be alert and ready for “business as unusual.”
  • Use it as an after-lunch energizer during a team retreat.
  • Use it as reinforcement for key learning about creativity, listening, or collaboration during a training event.

And if none of these strike your fancy, say “Yes, and …” and create one that does.

See how it’s done

Do you hear “improv comedy” and wonder how it works?

It’s a lot like the show, Whose Line is It, Anyway?, where short scenes are collaboratively created on-the-spot based on a suggestion from the audience. The laughs don’t come from clever lines or witty repartee; they naturally arise from the unexpected. In fact, that’s one of the best things about improv comedy: everyone can do it. There’s no theatrical training or funny bone required. That’s because we all improvise, every single day. Life is improvised.

The best way to really get it is to see it for yourself. Click here to watch our clients perform improv comedy with us. You’ll get a lift by watching them explore new ways or working—and laughing—together.

Originally published by BossaNova Consulting Group, Inc.
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Andrea Howe

As the founder of The Get Real Project, I am the steward of our vision and our service offerings, as well as a workshop leader and keynote speaker. Above all else, I am an entrepreneur on a mission: to kick conventional business wisdom to the curb and transform how people work together as a result. I am also the co-author, with Charles H. Green, of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook (Wiley, 2012).