Gary Hirsch co-founded On Your Feet alongside Robert Poynton in 1996. His premise is that business leaders benefit greatly from the skills imparted in improvisational comedy – most notably the concepts of co-creation, acceptance, and “throwing away the script.”
In Improv, you can’t force your partner in any particular direction. You have to respond to what they say, and them to you, without any preparation beforehand. This often brings unexpected results, and laughter. The takeaways are so important! Everything in Improv, in business, in life, is an offer.
To acknowledge an offer is nothing. It doesn’t advance the story, contribute to the plot, or co-create. It is like an employee who comes to you and says, “There is a better way to do this!”, and responding with, “Ok.”
Likewise, to deny the offer adds nothing, and destroys forward progress. It is like saying to the same employee, “You’re wrong, there is not better way.”
The Improvisational response – to accept the offer, and do something with it – is the spark that can create innovation, generate collaborative thinking, and move an organization forward. Even if your response is “I didn’t think it would work because…” you are adding to the plot and giving the employee something to respond to. Maybe the original idea was flawed, but together, the solution will percolate through co-creation. Being a Yes-Man doesn’t have to mean you go for every idea pitched your way. It could just mean making the effort to accept every offer thrown at you by responding in a collaborative way.