Improv and the Office: The Power of "Yes, And..."

Like almost every other living human, I have a fear of public speaking. Picturing the audience in its underwear freaks me out even more, so last year I decided it was time to turn to the professionals: the improvisational instructors at Chicago’s The Second City.

After graduating from the program, I discovered that I not only had the BEST time performing, but my initial goal of being more comfortable public speaking (note: not completely comfortable, because I don’t think that will ever happen) was attainable! With my fears lessened, I also honed a whole slew of other skills that have helped me everyday, especially in the workplace.

Openness to new ideas

Improv is all about being open to any idea, whether you’re comfortable with it or not, and creating something awesome with it. The idea of “yes, and”-ing any and all ideas creates an atmosphere of fluidity and trust that allows for the most amazing things to happen. If someone calls you a 16-year-old Valley Girl, you say “yes” in your brain to agree to the scene choice “and” then start professing your love of malls and using “like” every other word. The “and” opens the scene up infinitely to explore back-stories, scene partner relationships and any other development idea – no suggestion is ever rejected.

I think one of the worst traits in person (you know, other than a propensity for homicide) is someone who is closed off. Whether it’s closed off emotionally, intellectually or socially – it’s all incredibly disappointing. When sitting in a meeting discussing a potential project, the worst thing a coworker could do is shut down any and all ideas. Nothing good will come of close-mindedness and any semblance of a trusting environment for idea creation is shattered


The players in an improve scene have no idea what either scene partner will say or do, the ability to adapt quickly and adapt well becomes second nature. Even though you’ve decided the scene’s setting is a retro 50s diner, your scene partner may be floating in a life raft on the Arctic Ocean. You both must adapt to all the information that’s presented or the magic of the scene will be lost and you’ll have a very confused audience.

No matter the industry, we’ve all been in situations that don’t always go to plan and adaptability, or being able to think quickly, has been a coveted skill that many people, more often than not, view as smarter, better and more awesome in the workplace. The ability to be able to adapt, pivot and move along isn’t just a preferred skill; it’s necessary for meeting deadlines, adjusting plans and making clients think you’re amazing.


A cat lady who loves design, trivia, pop culture, books and donuts.