Yes Triumphs Over No

If you’ve ever been to a good improvisation show, you’ve probably wondered how these comedic geniuses manage to come up with delightful, unique responses that captivate.  The reality is their work — and it is work — is based upon not just talent but principles of scene building that also apply to good business dynamics. Taking improv comedy classes can make you see new ways to present information in business.  Plus, it’s just fun and you’ll get to meet and interact with some of the funniest people you’ll ever know.

I once had the pleasure of taking a few improv classes in Hollywood. Years later, those lessons of scene building still resound and apply to any professional endeavor. Here is the Number One lesson learned from improv comedy:


“Yes” is a very powerful word. Combine it with “and” in a brainstorming meeting at work, and you might end up with enchanting results. When students first try doing improv scenes together without rules in place, often one person will have an idea where they want to go with the scene — but another person has another idea. Improv comedy shuts down when one person takes over the scene by saying, “No/But” and taking the character or situation in a direction that conflicts with a previous statement.  Whenever you see a “but” someone is denying someone else’s words or ideas. If others in the same scene “but” back, the work can just come to a grinding, unproductive halt. Just like at the office. Neither situations are fun for anyone.

When you commit to saying “Yes and” instead of “No but” automatically to ideas, it opens up your world to truly inspiring opportunities. Why? Because it forces your team to listen to each other. In order to add new information, participants have to hear what is being said in the first place, and then dig deep to find that new bit of information that will add to what was presented. It works in improv and it works in business, too.

Indeed, “Yes” is a powerful word. People love to hear “Yes” whereas when they hear “No” reflexively it can cause them to stop trying. Add an “and” to your “Yes” with new information and you will be amazed at what you can accomplish. Want to see how it works for yourself? Sign up for some basic improv comedy classes near you. There are even more excellent scene building rules that will burnish your professional skills. And, again, you’ll have a really good time while learning how to be a better listener and team player at work.