Jenise Fryatt believes that improv has great contributions to make to any study of team-building, leadership or self improvement.

She has begun to share what she has learned in workshops and interactive conference presentations that feature discussion & improv games.

Here Jenise shares some of her thoughts on improv and in particular her work with GMIC.

Most Basic Rule of Improv

“Yes! And…” is probably the most basic rule of improv. It means accept what is offered and build on it.

It’s the basis for all good improv performances. It’s also the basis for creative thought and innovation. In fact, most recently it played a large part in one of the most innovative conferences I’ve seen, The Green Meetings Industry Council’s 2011 Sustainable Meetings Conference.

GMIC 2011 Conference Chair Elizabeth Henderson was tasked with finding a way to use concepts from the book “Total Engagement” by Byron Reeves, in a conference situation. The book explores the use of gaming concepts in business.  She created an outline of concepts, such as teams, role playing, instant feedback, scoring and competition, and applied it to a potential conference set-up.  Then she gathered some volunteers and put them into teams.

“One was my ‘Collaboration team’. I told them to use improv rules…that is, they needed to say “yes, and…” and build on ideas,” she explained in a recent Engage365 interview.

A separate group critically anaylzed the ideas and built on the ones they thought would work.

GMIC thought so much of “Yes! And…” that they hired an improviser (me) to introduce attendees to the rules of improv and how they can be useful for team building and in daily life.

The rest is history, as they say. GMIC’s 2011 Sustainable Meetings Conference is still being talked about as one of the most innovative and engaging events industry conferences to date.

GMIC is one of a handful of event industry organizations that are recognizing the impact digital technology is having on our culture, and adapting to the changing environment. Unfortunately, many people aren’t adjusting as easily.

Forrester Research

Not long ago, Forrester Research released a study that defined the characteristics of marketers who are thriving under these circumstances.

The report, entitled CMO Mandate: Adapt or Perish, identifies five characteristics that could have been taken
straight out of any guide to creating a great improv performance.

Number one on the list is “Accept Change.”

Forrester’s version of “Yes! And..” for marketers specifically encouraged them to:

keep employees nimble by restructuring roles. Improv teaches us that the assumption of different roles keeps things fresh and encourages creativity.

Prepare for changes in media by setting aside an ample experimentation budget. Improv teaches that there is often GOLD in the failures, so embrace experimentation no matter what the outcome.

Seek innovation from outside your company. Improv teaches that insulation stifles creativity so always seek new ideas from outside.

Both for business and on a personal level, “Yes! And . .” can be transformative. Sure there’s a place for skepticism but, “Yeah, but” is our go-to mode. “Yes! And…” is needed to for us to counter years of conditioning against creativity.

Yes Man

The film, “Yes Man” touches a little bit on the transformative power that saying yes has.

In it, Jim Carey plays a man who vows to say yes to everything for a whole year. He goes from a depressed loner to a happy, fulfilled and very successful guy.

It’s a fun film, but I would bet that a year of saying yes to everything would be even more drastically transformational than the film depicts.

If we were all to just say “Yes! And. . .” one time per day to something we normally wouldn’t, that alone could have a profound and positive impact.

But adopting “Yes And.. ” as a regular practice during these times of great change, could very well mean the difference between progress and obsolescence.


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Features Editor
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