1. Yes And
2. Make everyone else look good
3. Be changed by what is said and what happens
4. Shared agenda and shared focus
5. Serve the good of the whole
These are 5 common principles of improvisational theater, without which an improvised scene could not effectively move forward. I never appreciated theory-in-action more than at the Applied Improvisation Network (AIN) conference in NYC this past fall.
This conference consisted of 100 or so improv peers who have, like me, discovered the transformative value of applying the principles and practices of improvisational theater in business, education, social change…and to life in general. The focus of the weekend was not about performing improv, it was about purposeful applications of improv. For me, the weekend itself would prove to be the application purposefully enacted.
I was immersed in a large systemic “container” created by these principles for an entire weekend. Most, if not all, of us there shared experience with improv and a desire to use it as a tool for growth and change. Everyone there was already so deeply steeped and embodied in these principles as a way of being and navigating the world, I observed the following:
The debriefs were especially creative and generative (little irrelevance or debate and the action kept moving forward…and not once did I hear anybody vie for the one right way). People took risks and really put themselves and their ideas out there. The dialogue was open, direct and honest. There was a great sense of freedom and choice. Resonant connections were multiple and seemless. Collaboration and co-creation sprouted all over the place. Failure was celebrated. Focus, attention and credit were easily shared.
Adherence to the principles of improv creates a fertile, alive, fun, funny, safe, coherent and co-creative environment. In a day in age where people roll their eyes at even the thought of anything "touchy-feely" imposed upon them, improv-based principles serve as another entry-point for generating effective collaboration. Once practiced and embodied, these principles form the basis of a way of working together that that naturally allows people to feel better about themselves, each other, their work, and accomplish (and enjoy) more.
These principles are part of the larger creativity imperative already informing the next paradigm of organizational effectiveness.