There’s a whole lot we can learn by studying comedians, and that’s before you get into the socio-political wisdom of the greats like George Carlin and Bill Hicks. From the art of constructing an engaging story to pacing to working an audience so well they’re eating out of the palm of your hand, it’s a discipline and art form with probably the highest degree of difficulty.

Analogous to that is the study of improvisational or “improv” comedy, which is such a different animal because of the give and take with a partner or a group and the pressure to not let the comedic thread drop while coming up with material off the top of your head. There’s a lot we can apply in the business world from improv training, which we’ll get to in a second.

The edict that forms the cornerstone of improv is “Yes, and…” – or its corollary, “Don’t deny.” Beginners in improv training get the idea hammered into their head early and often, that when you’re working a scene with a partner, you take what has been said or done and move it forward.

Because improv is all about momentum and acceleration, the last thing you want to do is hold up a verbal STOP sign by disagreeing with the action and forcing the audience to make a choice about who they want to side with. It throws the entire proposition out of balance and puts a bullet in any laughs that were being generated by the absurdity of in-the-moment riffing.

These rules apply to business for anyone who’s been in a creative field or had to assemble a team to work on a long-term project.

There’s a growing body of business literature, including months of study by the data geeks at Google, that the single best predictor of success in a team setting is the psychological security felt by every team member or the belief that they can share an idea or observation of any kind without getting slighted or ridiculed by other group members.

It’s a “Yes, and…” scenario in a different setting, where the more team members take the baton from their counterparts and keep the ideas and solutions coming, the closer everyone comes to success. Just like on a comedy stage in front of a crowd whose basic outlook is “Make me laugh, monkeys” if an improv troupe’s members don’t have team-built trust that the comedic risks they take will be supported during a show, well, they’re going to die a slow and painful death up there.

Of course, this is not to say that every workplace group dynamic should be a parade of one-upmanship and zany prop gags.

That’s especially so since likely half of a given group of co-workers will be introverts who won’t be quick to speak up and let it rip while surrounded by other people. But “Yes, and…” applies just as well with those folks, too, since by supporting and building off of the valuable work they do in quiet hours of solitude, you’ll be adding their best stuff to the mix.

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