Today’s work environment relies on trust, collaboration and listening. According to Four Day Weekend, a Ft. Worth-based improvisational comedy troupe, those are also the essential ingredients for successful improv. Two decades ago, as they went from a six-week engagement at someone else’s theater to performing and managing their own theater, Four Day Weekend’s co-founders realized they suddenly had a business to run. But no one in the troupe had a business degree or practical business experience.
That’s when they decided to use the skills they had developed as performers, and apply that to developing their business, which now includes more than 5,000 performances at two theaters, weekly summer camps for kids and ongoing classes for adults, a podcast, a best-selling book, “Happy Accidents: The Transformative Power of ‘Yes, and’ at Work and in Life,” and corporate consulting.
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When performed on stage, “Yes, and” is the core tenet of improv in which one performer takes an idea from another (this is the “yes” part), and builds on it (the “and”), pushing it forward. For co-founders David Wilk and Frank Ford and cast member Emily Zawisza when it’s applied to business, “Yes, and” embodies all of the things that you want the business to have, helping to improve teamwork, morale, creativity, productivity, problem-solving and adaptability.
“Improv also teaches you a sense of play,” Ford says, which can be important to inspire risk taking that can lead to out-of-the-box ideas “that you might not have thought of otherwise…And improv teaches you to be unselfish. With the ensemble, collaborative nature of improve, my job is to make others on stage look good. And their job is to make me look good, and together, we all look good.”
That goal of collaboration helps the team achieve what it might not be able to accomplish as individuals, Wilk adds. “We’ve learned to listen well, and to build on the pertinent information of our partners so that it’s not what I know. It’s what we all know together. Because we are far more creative and productive together than we ever could be individually.”
The importance of support and listening
Success in improv requires listening. “For us, comedy is just a byproduct of this process. We know that our corporate clients are looking to utilize our skills for a different end result, but the process remains the same: support, listening and ‘Yes, and,” Zawisza explains.
“One thing we tell all our clients is that, us and them, we are all improvisers, every single day,” Wilk says. “What each of us does is unscripted. What we’ll be presenting at IMEX America are the tools and philosophies to be really successful in your work and personal lives by using “Yes, and.”
Four Day Weekend’s MPI keynote at IMEX America will include high-energy improve exercises, tools and insights on how to apply improvisation to be more successful on the job and in your personal life.
“We teach the principles of improvisation and how they apply to your professional and even personal lives. By experiencing these improv activities, we pinpoint behaviors and work to rewire the brain in the areas of communication, empathy, storytelling, listening/understanding, and creativity,” Ford says.
“We don’t get up with a PowerPoint. We show people how improv works, bring people on stage because it helps them remember,” Wilk adds. “This is a philosophy – sometimes you have to say no – but ‘Yes, and’ is about being positive (not being negative).”
Improv is important to meeting planners, Zawisza says. “You have to plan, have all your ducks in a row, but despite all that, something might change, so they have to think on the fly, be able to fail fast and recover in a positive way. That’s an improv mindset that can be really beneficial to those in the meeting and hospitality industry.”
“We’ve talked to meeting and event planners so we understand when something goes wrong, you have to adapt. You have to deal with problems. We focus on how do you react and how to look for the positive,” Ford says.