3 Rules for Workprov: How to Incorporate Improv In the Workplace

[Spoiler Alert: Workprov is Never Defined]

Q: What is a location that will fit on this post?
A: My office!

Great we’ll take the suggestion of office to start this blog.

I am an employee of Boston's Improv Asylum and during my (nontenured) time there, I have seen my fair share of businesses holding company outings to enjoy the funny people of the stage.

From the company’s standpoint, it is a great way to bond with coworkers and have something to talk about by the water cooler on Monday. As an employee, one just sees a large group of adults lost in the freedom of an open bar.

A company outing to a local improv theatre should be used as an opportunity to observe skills that can be translated into any and every situation one could encounter in the workplace…and to watch the funny people be funny.

[tweet_box design="default"]Here are three staples of improv that you should attach your company to at work.[/tweet_box]

1. The "Most Basic of Basics Rule": Yes, And

It’s a book title and Improv master, Tina Fey, swears by it.

It is the rule of Yes, and. This is the concept of not only accepting what someone is saying, but also adding to it.

It’s safe to say that progress comes to a halt when forward steps in a process are negated. It becomes difficult to work past an absolute “no.”

In Improv, if an actor establishes that the scene is in a dog park and another actor says, “No, this isn’t a dog park, we’re sky diving,” it essentially plows the scene into the ground (I’m on a roll folks).

Let’s apply it to the business world:

When brainstorming ideas for a new campaign, how much does it suck when someone shuts down your contribution, “No, that will never work,", "Please leave, you were never asked to join this meeting,", "You're not an employee here.”

A terrible experience, right?

It is much more proactive to accept the idea and build upon it, “Yes, a dog theme is a viable option and this is how we can apply it.” This allows minds to flow freely in a creative way without the fear of being shut down.


2. The “Two of the 5 Senses” Rule: Listen

Yes, the other senses, like taste, are important in Improv and work. But whether it’s performing, brainstorming, or interacting with a 3 year old, it is important to hear an offer in order to build on it.

“Hey, that’s only one sense, I feel cheated!” I’m honored you feel that way, but calm yourself.

In this case, hearing links to seeing. Much like you learned in Communication 101, nonverbal interaction can provide greater meaning to verbal interaction. If an actor says, “Your dog is definitely alive,” while violently shaking their head and another actor, who was not fully listening, jumps into the scene playing with that dog, then the magic of make-believe is kind of destroyed.

Not listening properly at work can lead to lost ideas, tension, and awkwardly still showing up at 9AM every day even though you were fired a week ago.

3. The “Intention of Belts (ATTN: Millennials)” Rule: Provide Support

One of the comforts of improv comedy - in comparison to stand up comedy - is your team. When you get stuck in a scene (unable to think of another line, the audience isn’t laughing, or the peak of the scene has been hit) your team will literally sweep you out of it.

They’re also there to support your choices.

If you walk on stage and say, “Dr. Steve, I’m sorry you lost that patient today, ” you can count on your scene partner to “yes, and” you with a response such as: “I’m just sorry I got the same sketch artist as Tom Brady to do the rendering” (Get it, cause the patient was lost…like a dog. It took me a significant amount of time to write that, to the point I’m not sure it’s relevant anymore).

The ability to depend on a supportive team is invaluable in the workplace. You can trust they will build on your ideas, back decisions you’ve made or, help you make them. They will also support you trash-talking that one guy who always happens to be leaving the kitchen with a look of both shame and pleasure when someone’s lunch goes missing.

Ta Da!
Now you are partially equipped to become a stronger employee and coworker! If this doesn’t work, have a fellow coworker read it as well and perform some two person scenes at the next company-wide meeting. Oh, and Periscope it so we can watch!

Workprov - A word I think I made up: The concept of combining aspects of improv into the workplace.
I'm fully aware this addition makes the headline a lie. #NoRagrets

DISCLAIMER: No dogs were harmed in the making of this post.



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