Working in creative environments is a lot like doing improv. The best improv artists have the ability to adapt, morph and work the curves that are thrown at them everyday. In her book, Bossy Pants, Tina Fey talks about the 4 rules of improv. It is amazing how much these same rules apply to our creative teams.
RULE 1. Start with yes. Starting with yes is the rule of engagement. Saying yes opens opportunity. It is popular to say no or have a no list, but no removes options that deserve a chance to be uncovered. We can always say no later but the rule of yes is a rule that opens options for our teams and organizations. Yes allows us to experience, learn, and uncover new things. The rule of yes also forces us to respect other people’s positions and their creations. People who lead with no are often full of fear and unwilling to experiment. No people also have a propensity for excuses. Saying no shuts the door on opportunity before we have given it a chance. Say yes first knowing we can always say no later.
RULE 2. Yes and –. “Yes and” forces us to move from listeners to contributors. Contributing is a gift and an honor. When we contribute we are adding to the equation something of our own…and a small piece of our DNA is inserted into the collective creation. We should not be afraid to contribute. God has created us in his image…to be creative like the Creator. It is our responsibility to use the unique gifts and perspectives that God has bestowed upon us in order to make art and history everyday.
RULE 3. Make Statements. Obviously questions are a fantastic way of uncovering data but once the questions have been asked leaders understand the power of making statements. If we desire to be part of the solution we have to be willing to make statements. Often the make more of a statement than any word we could ever say. How we hustle speaks volumes to our teams. We set our own personal tone that will set the tone for those around us. Just being part of the process and helping the process develop is a statement. Unfortunately, often times we sometimes fear making statements because we know that statements force us into a position. Making a statement may not make us right but it identifies us as willing to do what it takes to lead and be our best.
RULE 4. There are no mistakes, only opportunities. Opportunities surround us daily. When we are trying to do things that are going to break the status quo we have to understand failure is part of the equation. When we miss step, or things get messy, we create opportunities to fail, retry and recover. Amazing does not happen without the occasional failure. Sometimes these opportunities may hurt but without them we will never make the mark we know we have been created to make. Further, we need to look at our obstacles or constraints as opportunities as well. Anything that is keeping us from achieving our goals should be considered an opportunity to learn, adapt, or overcome.
Creative teams must battle entitlement and falling into the trap that they are consistently being abused. As creative professionals we work in fluid environments. The only consistency we should count on is inconsistency. The rules of improv can help us learn to be more flexible and adjustable. Our job is not to always be right but to daily make the departments and communicators around us better. Creative teams are service departments first. We get the opportunity to support and serve and in doing those things we influence and impact our organization. When we understand that flexibility and service create more space for us than being stubborn, hard to work with, unreliable, and divas, we will have more voice and influence in our organizations than we could ever imagine. Flexibility opens the door for other departments to engage our gifts of creativity and use them to be better than they could on their own.
How can you apply the rules of improv to your team?