How to grow your business by letting go

An improvisation technique known as the ‘yes, and’ principle could help you stay nimble in the face of change.

Most successful entrepreneurs have a go-get-’em attitude and like to call the shots. But the same qualities that empower you to make things happen — fierce determination and discipline — can also hold you back. Insist on controlling too much, and you risk your company’s ability to evolve.

Taking a cue from masters of improvisation like Bill Murray and Stephen Colbert can help you stay flexible. By applying the basic philosophy of improv theater to business, known as the “yes, and” principle, you can unlock your company’s untapped potential for growth.

“It’s how two performers who’ve never met before can create a successful scene in seconds,” says Lisa Linke, a 15-year improv veteran and lead facilitator at Second City Communications, the corporate training division of the world-famous improv theater in Chicago. The strategy is comprised of two essential actions, she says. First, saying “yes” to the circumstances by going with the flow acknowledges, affirms and validates what the other performer says. Then comes the “and,” when you add your own perspective to give the scene forward momentum.

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