What Improv Can Teach Us About Business
There is a rule in the realm of theater called improv, where the performances are made up on the fly. It goes something like this: “say ‘yes’ to everything.” In other words, no matter how outlandish the scene gets, you say “yes” to it, and build off of it. This is what causes most improv sessions to end up being completely hilarious. But it also offers a basic premise that we can apply to business.
It’s too easy to say “no” in business. No, that idea won’t fit within our budget. No, that’s not what we do here. No, that strategy doesn’t work.
I’m not going to lie to you. Not everything is possible in business. There are limits and constraints. I’m not going to tell you to respond to every idea with “yes.” That would be crazy.
Instead, I’m going to tell you to stop saying “no.”
Don’t dismiss ideas outright. Learn from them. Build off of them. Find a way to make some version of that idea work. Ask “how can we use this?” instead of saying “no, we won’t do that.”
Here’s an example. Suppose during a brainstorming session somebody mentions the idea of a celebrity endorsement. You could say “no” to that idea. It’s not in the budget and it wouldn’t offer the kind of ROI you were looking for. But you could also build off of the idea. You might consider the benefit of hiring a small but influential blogger or YouTube celebrity, or the possibility of appearing on a popular blog, or the possibility of adding a “we’ve been featured on [popular site]” badge to your landing page.
Another example: marketing approaches. We all get caught in our own little categories: SEO, PPC, inbound, email marketing, social media, etc., and we can start to close ourselves off. “SEO is dangerous because we don’t have any control over search engines.” “Paid advertising is a bad idea in this day and age when interruption marketing is met with negativity.” “Social media is a waste of time because most studies reveal little or no ROI.”
It’s wise to be informed, but when we shut ourselves off completely, we can fail to absorb helpful information. SEO may not be appealing to you, but would it make sense to focus on building referral traffic through links, and leveraging that for some additional SEO value? Social media might not typically turn a profit, but if you approached it as a way to build email lists or brand impressions, could you be the exception to the rule? Could you approach paid advertising in a way that didn’t leave people feeling like you wasted their time? Could you borrow tactics used by other marketing professionals to strengthen your own?
Saying “yes” to everything is dangerous and wasteful, but saying “no” instead of “what can I do with this information” is just an excuse to grow stagnant rigid in a world of constant change.
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