“I moved to Chicago in the early 1990s and I studied improvisation there. I learned some rules that I try to apply still today. Listen, say yes, live in the moment, make sure you play with people who have your back, make big choices early and often. Don't start a scene where two people are talking about jumping out of a plane. Start the scene having already jumped. If you are scared, look into your partner's eyes. You will feel better.” - Amy Poehler
Besides being a hilarious way to spend an evening, improv is an excellent practice to cultivate your inner entrepreneur. The main rules of improv outlined above by my favorite funny girl Amy Poehler are not only a great way to live your life but also to run your organization. Improv forces you to pay attention, think on your feet, not take yourself so seriously and most importantly, have a good time.
Here are 3 ways improv can cultivate your social entrepreneurial spirit.
1. Say Yes And.
The Golden Rule of Improv. Always, always, always say yes. Never turn down your partner. Instead say yes and build on their statement. If your partner walks on stage and says, “Watch out! There’s a scary alien behind you!” You say, “Oh, that alien over there? That’s my chemistry partner Alison.” Not "What alien? I don't see an alien."
No matter how ridiculous it may seem to you, don’t turn down your partner's imagination. Instead add to it and contribute to the idea. Innovation and solving complex problems requires a limitless imagination.
2. Don’t Apologize. Admit You Made a Mistake, Applaud Yourself and Move On.
One of my favorite exercises in my improv class is clapping when someone admits to a mistake. Our teacher doesn’t allow us to apologize. Instead he requires us to say “I made a mistake!” and cheer. Applauding failure gives us the freedom to be silly, make mistakes, learn from them and be totally okay about it.
Not allowing failure in your organization hinders creativity and growth. Next time, instead of punishing failure, why not celebrate it?
3. Collaboration and Communication Are Key.
Improv is extremely dependent on collaboration. Not only do you need to communicate effectively with the audience, you also need to communicate effectively with your partner or team. This includes non-verbally. If you are not in sync with your team then the audience will be just as lost as you.
To succeed in our rapidly changing environment, you must communicate and collaborate well with your team. To solve a social issue like poverty or poor education, communication and working well together goes a long way. Sounds simple yet somehow we tend to forget this in our day to day.