Daily Archives: September 1, 2010

The Improv Comedy Approach to Successful Brainstorming and Collaboration

“I always tell people, don’t try to be funny.”

When groups collaborate there is often a tendency for some members to immediately throw up metaphorical stop signs and barriers, even if unconsciously. “That idea was tried before and didn’t work,” is a classic sucking-the-air-out-of-the-room moment most of us have encountered.

Enter Michael Jastroch, one of the comedy improv trainers from Austin’s Coldtowne Theater, who teaches work teams to play off of new ideas rather than stomping on them like a cockroach. The principle is taught by letting participants pair off for some low-stress improvisation. “I always tell people, don’t try to be funny,” he says. “The important thing is to build on the flow of ideas, and good stuff just naturally pops up.”

He forces the improv pairs to use a structure called “Yes, and…” Each person takes turns in the improvisation, and no matter what the one says, the other has to reply by saying, “Yes, and…”

My work team took a stab at it during a department retreat led by Jastroch. The first pair of volunteers took the stage and began:

1: I have a neighbor who smokes cigars in her back yard.
2: Yes, and I think you should consider smoking cigars, too.
1: Yes, and perhaps you should try some new things once in a while.

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