Collaborative Creativity through Improv

Collaborative Creativity through Improv
Cheryl Platz, Principal Design, Microsoft
Jason Specland, Software Architect, BlueMetal

From the Design Operations Summit website:
Improvisational theater performers create an environment where creativity is maximized within an environment of listening and nonjudgemental collaboration. Take a peek behind the curtain as two professional improvisors (and technologists!) demonstrate some of the key principles they apply not just onstage, but their day jobs at software companies as well. All this while laughing your way through the end of the day!

What is applied improv?  It’s bringing these concepts into other environments beyond the stage.  The skills we learn can help no matter where you want to take them.


Although they havebn’t been on the stage together in a decade, they are able to engage because there are common ways of working:


Yes, and.  “No” is easy to spot.  “Yes, but” is a little more insidious, harder to spot.  In contrast, “Yes, and” is more collaborative and generative.  The risk is that ideas are missed or ignored.  Keep an eye out for negative words – and for more than words (e.g. things like body language).  Is the subject changing too frequently?  Is energy low?

Status.  Is about “the relative relationship between people in a scene or group, as manifested by attitudes towards each other, and the environment around them”.  Our brains crave these status signals, whether we want it or not.


This may be useful for you as a manager, to get a sense of where people fit (or where they think they fit).  Using high status signals may shut down collaboration, but it can also make yourself appear more compelling and confident.

Justification.  This one takes a lot of time to learn – it comes with practice.  You learn that every offer is valuable, each problem is solvable.  We learn to embrace constraints, change, and chaos gracefully.  We learn to build on what we’re hearing, and ultimately makes us better creative partners.


1 Comments on “Collaborative Creativity through Improv”

  1. Pingback: Design Ops 2018 – Recap | Natalie Hanson

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