Life is an improvisation. You have no idea what's going to happen next. You’re adlibbing and brainstorming in real-time. The whole point of improvisation is to get out of your box and get out of your head. So, don’t be afraid to throw away your plan. You need to team up and get creative because the possibilities of what can be accomplished when two or more people come together are limitless.
From my experience and what I’ve learned from other innovators, the best ideas often come in the form of jokes. So, when an idea pops up out of a state of delirium or just flat-out sarcasm, take a moment to actually consider it.
On this episode of Ignition Point, we’re taking a look at why you should team up and apply a creative process to come up with better ideas and more impactful solutions.
Ignition Point is all about making a positive impact, so please share the show with someone you think it may help. We designed this weekly podcast for ambitious Young Professionals and aspiring Leaders who want to stay motivated and keep moving forward. Throughout Season 1, we will be connecting fresh perspectives with practical strategies to help listeners feel empowered all week long. You can help us improve by joining our LinkedIn and Twitter Community by using #IgnitionPoint, submitting a review on Apple Podcasts, or emailing feedback to [email protected].
Welcome to Ignition Point – the show that’s here to help you take the leap, conquer your week, and achieve your goals. If you’re looking to amplify your mindset with a fresh perspective and spark your momentum – you’re in the right place.
Hey! What’s going on? I’m Steven Miller. Thanks for joining me for another Ignition Point – the show where we cover an influential speech or feature a Guest Keynote to get you fired up and ready to take on another winning week.
If you couldn’t tell from my weekly attempts at adding a bit of humor to the show, I love to laugh. When I can, I try to make it out to Don’t Tell Comedy’s Stand Up Events across Phoenix, but if I’m stuck watching something on Netflix or Hulu, sketch comedy and improv are my mainstays. Improv Comedy – if you’re not familiar – is what you see on Saturday Night Live or on Historical Roasts. It’s mostly unscripted, so the comedians have to work together to make the scene entertaining on their wit and the audience’s energy alone.
For the cast, it’s the epitome of discomfort. You’re adlibbing and brainstorming in real-time, responding to what the crowd finds funny while keeping the pace fast and frictionless. In practice, I think it mirrors the principles of design thinking and creative problem solving. In Design Thinking, you use a six-step process to solve a problem. Roll with me here.
Step 1. You empathize with a group – like an audience – to find out what they’re looking for. For an Improv Group, this is the easy part, the audience wants to be entertained.
Step 2. You define the set of circumstances. This is where the improv group would lay out the roles of the comedians on stage, ask the audience for a set of circumstances, and start determining the challenges they’ll face.
Step 3. You ideate or start brainstorming. This is where things get messy, but the troupe will start riffing onstage to come up with a direction until they zero in on what sticks.
Step 4. You prototype based on your findings. Having validated their assumptions, the crew stays the course, but keeps the material fresh to maintain the energy and avoid getting heckled.
Step 5. You test the best idea you came up with. All of a sudden, that idea that got the biggest laugh becomes the centerpiece of the sketch and the team onstage starts building a story around it by iterating quickly so they don’t lose momentum.
So, how can we apply this to taking big steps toward our goals? To answer that question, let’s learn a little more about on the fly thinking with the help of this week’s monologue.
Let’s get after it!
THE WEEKLY MONOLOGUE
Have you seen the world outside lately? The world is waiting for you with a club.
Unprecedented changes are happening like globalization. We now live in a hyperconnected, global, economic, outsourced society. Now there are positives and negatives here. In a positive sense, globalization helps us understand and learn from otherwise foreign cultures. For example, I now know how to ask for a Happy Meal in five different languages.
Technology interconnects us like never before. It’s now possible for even the most insulated person to have friends from all over the world. Speaking of which, I recently received an e-mail from a deposed Nigerian prince who asked me to help him recuperate his fortune. Thanks to the flexibility of global banking, a swiss bank account was ready and waiting for my share of his money. I know, because I just e-mailed him my Social Security number.
As for the negatives of our brave new world, consider the life of someone looking for a job. Many corporations searching for a better bottom line have moved many of their operations overseas. In fact, outsourcing is so easy that I had this speech written by a young man named Panjeeb from Bangalore.
There are so many challenges facing us and according to social media you’re up for these challenges. I don't know if you can handle it, but if there’s one thing that may save you, it will be your youth. This is your great strength. Having said that, it’s also why I fear you.
It has been said that children are the future. But does that not also mean adults are their past? You – filled with youth – are here to replace those of us who came before you. So, why am I trying to help you? Wouldn’t that be like unionized workers holding benefits for robots?
I digress, but you seem nice enough, so I'll try to give you some advice. First of all, if someone offers you a job, say yes. You can always quit later. Then at least you'll be one of the unemployed as opposed to one of the never employed. Nothing looks worse on a resume than nothing.
So, say "yes." In fact, say "yes" as often as you can. When I was starting out, there was really only one rule I was taught. That was the improvisation concept, "yes-and."
In this case, "yes-and" is a verb. To "yes-and." “Yes-anding” means that when you have no idea what's going to happen, maybe with someone you've never met before, you have to accept what happens. If they say you're doctors—you're doctors. And then, you add to that: We're doctors and we're trapped in an ice cave. That's the "-and." Then – hopefully – they "yes-and" you back, this time with some kind of fur coat or a portable heater.
You have to keep your eyes open when you do this. You have to be aware of what the other person is offering you, so that you can agree and add to it. Through these agreements, you can improvise. Because, by following each other's lead, neither of you are really in control, it's more of a mutual discovery than a solo adventure. What happens in any situation is often as much a surprise to you as it is to your audience.
Now, will saying "yes" get you in trouble at times? Will saying "yes" lead you to doing some foolish things? Yes, it will. But don't be afraid to be a fool. Remember, you cannot be both young and wise.
Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Cynics don't learn anything, because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say no.
But saying "yes" begins things.
Saying "yes" is how things grow.
Saying "yes" leads to knowledge.
"Yes" is for young people. So, for as long as you have the strength to, say "yes."
In life, there is no script. You have no idea what's going to happen, often with people and places you have never seen before. And you are not in control. So, say "yes." And if you're lucky, you'll find people who will say "yes" back.
Life is an improvisation. You have no idea what's going to happen next and you are mostly just making things up as you go along.
There are few rules to improvisation, but the one that represents my point is that you are not the most important person in the scene. Everybody else is. And if they are the most important people in the scene, you will naturally pay attention to them and serve them. But the good news is you're in the scene too. So hopefully to them you're the most important person, and they will serve you. No one is leading, you're all following the follower, serving the servant.
In my experience, you will only truly serve what you love, because service is love made visible.
If you love friends, you will serve your friends.
If you love community, you will serve your community.
If you love money, you will serve your money.
And if you love only yourself, you will serve only yourself.
So, try to love others and serve others, and hopefully you will find people who love you and serve you in return.
STRATEGY FOR SUCCESS
Relying solely on your inner voice rarely brings meaningful results because when you’re left to your own devices, you fall back on what is familiar. The whole point of improvisation is to get out of your box – to get out of your head. When your goal is to get creative and solve a problem, you need to rely on multiple voices and be willing to throw away the plan you once committed to.
Improv is the art of thinking with two heads, and as Dale Carnegie said, “when two minds come together, they form an invisible third mind.” In laymen’s terms, two heads are always better than one.
The best brainstorming and creative problem-solving sessions are ongoing, mutual states of thinking that stem from active listening. So, just as the speaker shared, don’t think of Improv as an event. You need to accept it as a part of your life, but be sure to validate the problem before you try coming up with solutions.
If you want to give improv a shot – whether in a comedic sense or in real-world application – you need to be ready and willing to team up and be flexible. The possibilities of what can be accomplished when two or more people come together are limitless, and if you want to experience next level results, you need to “yes-and” a whole lot more than you say no.
This starts by forming a circle of trust – a group of committed, like-minded people that is commonly referred to as a mastermind. A mastermind offers a combination of brainstorming, education, peer accountability and support. Members of your mastermind will challenge each other to set strong goals, and more importantly, accomplish them.
The standard practice of masterminds is to first create a goal, then design a plan to achieve it. This type of group requires a willingness to both give and receive advice, support, honesty, respect and compassion. They promote growth and act as a devil’s advocate.
The group helps you with creative ideas and wise decision-making. Then, as you begin to implement your plan, you share success stories and any problems that arise. The wins in the group are celebrated and the problems are addressed through brainstorming and collective, creative thinking. But the key to having a great mastermind is to never shoot down the ideas of the participants. Every idea is a starting point that can be built on or merged with other ideas the group comes up with, similar to the concept of “yes-anding.”
When you’ve got the open forum to have these creative conversations in a circle of trust, you have to embrace all the weirdness. If you’ve ever seen the Comedy Central show Workaholics, you might immediately think of Adam, Anders and Blake chanting, “Let’s Get Weird!” but if you’re old school, you’d probably think of Doc Brown from Back to the Future explaining to Marty, “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads!”
From my experience and what I’ve learned from other innovators, the best ideas often come in the form of jokes. So, when an idea pops up out of a state of delirium or just flat-out sarcasm, take a moment to actually consider it. Bringing that out-there idea to life might pay off greater than a practical solution would, but it’s going to take a tried and true process to really prove the viability of your improvised idea.
Even though I’ve technically brought it up briefly before the speech, this brings me to the last piece of advice I’ve got for you this week. If you want to elevate your creativity and become exceptional at thinking on the fly, you should give a process like Design Thinking a shot.
Design Thinking is a people-centered process that encourages you to focus on who you serve, by combining what is desirable with what is viable. The methodology makes it easy for people who aren’t trained designers to solve problems that bring about better products, services, and internal practices. But what I find really amazing about it, is that it reduces the risks associated with launching new ideas while you learn faster.
To recap, Design Thinking starts with empathy – or asking the right questions to understand the needs you’re designing for. After you define the circumstances you’re designing around, the process shifts to ideation – where you gather inspiration and your team brainstorms to come up with a ton of ideas. Lastly, you experiment by building prototypes of your best ideas to determine what works by testing its ability to solve the problem you originally designed for.
Just like with comedic improv, there may be setbacks in any process you choose, but that’s okay. The process you use doesn’t need to be linear. As a matter of fact, you may have to jump around within the process, but when you have a roadmap like the Design Thinking methodology, you’re able to achieve your goals far more efficiently.
Personally, I love creative conversation and improv because they bring people together. Having a high GPA, SAT, ACT, IQ, LOL, TTYL – none of that matters in the world of improv. What matters is an openness to work together and serve others. Where you come from, your industry, your title, your household income – all of that is moot because you can apply creativity to all walks of life.
Whenever you’re ready to take your next leap forward, build your circle of trust by forming a mastermind, embrace all the ideas that come from your creative conversations, and adopt a process like Design Thinking to navigate from problem to solution more effectively.
Don’t be afraid to throw away the plan. You can even kick it if you’d like. You can MacGyver your way out of any situation if you start thinking outside the box. And hey, if you struggle or totally blow it along the way, laugh it off and go back to the drawing board.
Ignition Point is all about making a positive impact, so please share the show with someone you think it would help. Your feedback helps Ignition Point to keep moving forward, so send me an email to [email protected] or write a review for the show on Apple Podcasts to let me know what you think.
We hold out until the end of each show to share who inspired each week’s Ignition Point for two reasons. To keep you curious and remind you to focus on the motivation. This week’s Ignition Point was adapted from Stephen Colbert’s 2006 Commencement Address at Knox College.
Live loud, laugh hard, stay motivated and keep moving forward. If you put in the hard work right now – one day – you could be the one motivating the world with your story.
I’ll look forward to speaking with you next time on another Ignition Point.
Now get on out there, and win the week!