If you’ve ever seen improv comedy, you know that it turns on a dime.
For the actors, it’s a highly stressful situation where they are responsible for making sure the performance not only keeps moving, but that it is entertaining as well.
One fumble or wrong move can derail the whole thing and lose the audience. Improv actors survive by their wits alone, feeding off each others’ ideas on the fly.
That’s why actors in improv all obey one Golden Rule: the “Yes, and…” rule.
When someone puts forward a premise, the other actors immediately accept it as truth and build on it.
Person 1: Wow, the ocean looks really beautiful today…
Person 2: Yes, and…wait is that a giant sea monster emerging from beneath the waves?!
Person 1: It’s coming this way!
Person 2: What does it want from us?
Person 1: What’s that? He just wants to know where he can get fish and chips…
You’ve probably already guessed the reason for this rule, but let’s unpack it anyway.
If Person 2 in the above exchange suddenly decided to say “No” and reject Person 1’s premise, the whole performance would devolve into chaos and incoherence.
The beach setting of the skit would be immediately nullified and the actors have to start again.
When Person 1 introduces the ocean theme into the above example, it’s just a beginning, a starting point. The skit could literally have gone in any direction: pirates, shark attacks, surfing competitions… you name it.
But by reacting with a “No,” Person 2 could have shut out all those possibilities.
You might ask, how is this concept important to marketers?
Well, as marketers, we trade in ideas. Just like the actors in an improv troupe, our task is to come up with something remarkable that delights our audience.
The problem is, we often don’t work to create the optimal conditions for fostering extraordinary ideas.
While we might not be under as much immediate stress as an improv performer, we often brainstorm in highly competitive environments and shoot down our colleagues’ ideas, even when they are in the very early stages of development.
Add to this the distractions of email and social media, and you have a recipe for mediocrity. Unchecked negativity and distraction rarely bring remarkable results.
What if you set up a brainstorming meeting where you banned phones and negative comments and instead had everyone obey the “Yes, and…” rule?
Then, instead of simply shooting down an idea, if someone thinks it’s bad, the onus is on them to make it better.
When a colleague puts forward a headline for a blog post, for example, you don’t say “No way, that sucks.” You say, “Yes, and…how about we add this in too.”
Most ideas will need to run through a few iterations of this process before they become good. But that’s okay.
When was the last time that you saw someone conjure up a genius idea out of nowhere?
It rarely happens. And, if it does, it’s usually because that person has put a lot of thought into the topic beforehand.
So, the next time you have a big meeting where you need ideas, try implementing the “Yes, and…” rule.
You might just come up with something remarkable.
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