Generosity and Respect

In Innovation at the Speed of Laughter, John Sweeney defines innovation as “an attitude that allows… a group of people to innovate and create instantly by using their own sense of trust, truth, acceptance, and creativity.” Having taken classes at the Brave New Workshop, I can attest to the fact that the entire company acts with generosity and respect for everyone who works there and who walks in the doors. This does not mean that they agree with everyone’s opinions, but they always recognize a person’s right to be heard. And when they work on a scene, every staff member generously gives the best of themselves to make their counterparts look good.

I felt that today was a good day to remember what we can learn from improvisation in terms of saying “Yes, and” to each other, and for taking personal responsibility to contribute to the discussion in a positive way.

In Tina Fey’s Bossypants, she has a section on The Rules of Improvisation:

The first rule of improvisation is AGREE. Always agree and SAY YES. When you’re improvising, this means you are required to agree with whatever your partner has created. So if we’re improvising and I say “Freeze, I have a gun,” and you say “That’s not a gun. It’s your finger. You’re pointing your finger at me,” our improvised scene has ground to a halt. But if I say, “Freeze, I have a gun!” and you say, “The gun I gave you for Christmas! You bastard!” then we have started a scene because we have AGREED that my finger is in fact a Christmas gun.

The second rule of improvisation is not only to say yes, but YES, AND. You are supposed to agree and then add something of your own. If I start a scene with “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you just say “Yeah…” we’re kind of at a standstill. But if I say “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you say “What did you expect? We’re in hell…” now we’re getting somewhere.

To me, YES, AND means don’t be afraid to contribute. It’s your responsibility to contribute. Always make sure you’re adding something to the discussion…. In other words: Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles.

At wHolistic ChangeSM, our goal is to set people up for success during those most challenging times: during periods of great change. Because we know that change can be scary, we include employees in the conversation, incorporate their suggestions whenever possible, and ensure that the end goal is a revised organization where everyone feels respected and has the tools they need to be successful.

About Michelle Smeby

Michelle Smeby is CEO of wHolistic Change, Inc. with more than 10 years of experience implementing enterprise solutions at Fortune 100 companies. Michelle specializes in helping corporations deliver transformational change.
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