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Yes, and vs. yes, but: A Lesson Learned from Chet Harding, Improv Asylum

12 Dec, 2014 By: Ashley Secondini, Questex Media Group

Having recently attended a Marketing conference in Boston, I walked away with a lesson I hadn’t expected, a lesson that was out of the ordinary, one that you wouldn’t normally hear at a Marketing conference, one that stood out among the case studies and how to connect with your target audience. I had wanted to stay through this session, mainly because I was hoping to get a few good laughs out of it and call it a day. But the lesson I learned in it will forever be in the back of my Marketing mind. How can we use ideas and make them grow?

Chet Harding of Improv Asylum, started off with a basic exercise. He had one person state the first part of a word. For example, “mono” and then the next person would say “monologue.” The first person could have had the word “monotone” in mind but together they created a different word by bringing these syllables together and creating something that could be potentially bigger and better.

The next exercise the audience participated in was yes, and vs. yes, but. The first person would state “My grandmother is in town.” The next participant would state “My grandmother is town. Yes, and we’re going shopping.” The yes, but version would go something like this “My grandmother is town. Yes, but she broke a hip.”

Both of these exercises have the same message: letting ideas grow and how we, as business professionals, can allow them to grow. Ideas won’t always be successful but with these simple exercises, they can grow into something that we never imagined they could. Chet stated that this “yes, and” phrase is the heart of improv. It’s about listening and building and not shutting down each other’s ideas, but branching off of them. It’s about being in the moment, moving forward, and not stopping an idea in its tracks like how Granny broke her hip and can’t do anything while she’s in town, when, in fact, I’m sure she’s up for a riveting game of Scrabble.

These exercises are also about building up your team. If you start the “yes, and” exercise with your team, you won’t necessarily remember who initially started the idea but you’ll remember the idea blossoming as the team began to expand outside the box and think creatively. Don’t shut down an idea, let it happen naturally, don’t force it. Ideas don’t have to be perfect, accept the mistakes and build off of them. Because who knows, the craziest ideas are usually the most successful. Take the risk and be innovative. If the most valuable session in a Marketing conference came from the unlikely source of an improv actor, why can’t the same concept apply to industry ideas?

*Source: Chet Harding, Improv Asylum, Inbound Marketing Summit 2014, Boston, MA

About the Author: Ashley Secondini

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