Quick Thinking ImprovYour boss’s big planning meeting is coming to a close. A lot of data has been shared and information overload is creeping up on you. As the presentation reaches its final slides, your boss turns to the (semi) captive audience with the inevitable questions:

“What do you think? Does anyone have ideas to share?”
“…um…nope, everything looks great!”
“Ok, this was an excellent meeting everyone!”

Chances are if you work on a team, you have been a part of a meeting like this; low engagement and a lack of idea-generation can stop a productivity dead in its tracks. An open exchange of thoughts and ideas is integral when collaborating to achieve goals, but reaching these high levels of engagement can be much easier said than done.
Luckily, solutions to these problems can be found in an unlikely place – the teachings of improv comedy! These quick-thinking performers put on a show without a script, set or costumes, so they are trained to think on their feet and create countless ideas at any given time.
Here are a few of our favorite techniques used by improvisers on stage that can help boost your teamwork in the office:
Yes, And…
“Yes, and” is the cornerstone of the improviser’s playbook. In short, this concept recognizes the importance of complete agreement and sets an expectation of positive acceptance of whatever occurs. On stage, this means accepting the reality of the scene as established by the actors:

“Oh no, it’s raining ice cream again”
Yes, and I left my waffle cone umbrella at home!”

In a meeting, this means allowing for true brainstorming to thrive before shooting down any ideas. Resist the urge to judge or evaluate any ideas until a large list has been generated. Remember, no thought is too outside of the box!
It can be easy to tune out during a meeting, especially when a lot of information is being shared. Improvisers don’t have the luxury of checking out on stage because they might miss key details about characters and environments; the workplace is no different.
Instead of turning a deaf ear, work to build your active listening skills gradually by trying a few listening-based activities. For example, simply pair up members of your team and have them start a conversation. However, there is a catch; each new line of dialogue must start with the last word their partner just said. It might surprise you to know just how much detail our ears miss!
Ultimately, the goal of improvising is to tap into the performers and audience’s sense of play. The crowd can relax and enjoy the show much more if they can feel the fun coming from the stage. We’ve covered the serious benefits of embracing play in the workplace in an earlier post and the message bears repeating.
If you can reach this level of genuine play between coworkers on your team, you might just be comfortable enough to share your company’s next bold idea.