I’ve had the pleasure of talking with several intrepreneur leaders lately. These are innovators who are charged with leading creative teams within large companies – in this case, corporations with global reach and brand recognition. There are serious pros to being an intrepreneur! Reliable pay checks, competitive benefits packages, and the lack of folks asking you to come in on a Saturday and paint your own office (<-- this is a real thing from my past in the start up scene! Ha!).
But there are draw backs too. Intrepreneurs often feel the strain of being creative within a culture that is defined by a higher up who doesn’t fully understand the needs of a creative department. Once a critical mass has expectations from a brand, it’s harder to adjust course. It takes a lot of buy in from a lot of people to ear mark available funds for creative solutions that are less familiar to decision makers.
If this sounds familiar, try this on for size: improv is essentially comedic innovation that happens in front of a live audience. Implementing these 3 improv-inspired rules will prop up the spirit of innovation in your department despite some of the well-intended measures that may be holding your team back.
1. This team listens with curiosity. Introduce ways for your team to explore each other’s ideas rather than shooting them down if it’s not immediately clear how an idea is practical. Sometimes well-meaning people shoot down the very ideas that could propel the whole team forward, because they’re trying to be practical. But we don’t get amazing results with ho hum ideas, so it’s VERY important that teams who want to innovate learn to explore first and rationalize second. Choosing curiosity over judgement is a core improv skill, because it’s the only way new ideas can thrive quickly.
2. No Martyr Policy. When we do more than our share, we inadvertently tell our teammates that we don’t trust them… and we slowly get resentful and burned out. Everyone loses. Charna Halpern says in her book Truth in Comedy, “A good improviser knows when he’s not needed on stage.” When we commit not to be martyrs, we give each other opportunities to shine.
3. Stay present in the current moment. Innovation happens right now, in this moment. Innovation is a process, not a destination. In order to innovate, we have to be listening RIGHT NOW, moment by moment. Right now is where the solvable problems are being voiced. Right now is where the sprits of creativity are asking to be engaged to do something that’s never been done before. If you’re too busy trying to prove you’re the smartest person in the room, or worrying about something that’s not in the here and now, you’ll miss the boat!
When these behaviors become ingrained in a culture, collaboration starts to happen naturally, and can produce results that exceed what any one person could have done alone. This is the Yes And effect, and it gives teams boundless potential. The best part is that these changes happen on an individual level – they don’t require huge structural change.
Happy innovating, intrepreneurs!
PS:You don’t have to do this alone. Improv has made a big difference for lots of intrepreneurs, and it can make a difference for your team too. Let’s talk!