Esquire Theme by Matthew Buchanan
Social icons by Tim van Damme



Special Guest Post: Yes! to Improv, By Terry Daves

I was onstage, in the moment, facing an invisible tiger, when I realized the words  “yes, and…” can change the way a person does business.
I ended up at the Peoples Improv Theater in my ongoing search for better ways to serve clients and motivate staff.  I run Medallion Retail; we develop shopper experiences and environments for big retail brands.  We’re all about creating a positive experience.  Turns out, so is improv theater.
Our workshop at PIT was inspiring, invigorating and insanely fun.  It was a safe space where non-actors like me got to play, mug and feel the thrill of really thinking on your feet.  Being in the moment – and outside of your own head — is empowering.
Through scenes, games and exercises (Crazy 8s was a favorite!), I learned that the cornerstone of good improv is an affirmative attitude.  Openness, flexibility and a willingness to extend yourself result in a good performance – on a stage or in a client meeting.  
Good improv, and good business, require 
·     Commitment

o   Truly believe in what you’re saying and who you’re saying it to.  

·     Collaboration

o   Share your vision and trust your team. Trust leads to empowerment, which leads to surprising and delightful performances.

·     Energy

o   Exude positive vibes.  Your audience – paying client or patron – can feel and feed on your excitement and passion.

I use my newfound improv skills everyday in my business to animate idea sessions, motivate staff and wow clients.  Would I take another workshop at PIT?

Terry Daves is the President of Medallion Retail, a full service retail strategy company, offering end-to-end research through implementation expertise specializing in custom branded selling environments.

Medallion Retail helps great businesses become great brands. Fortune 1000 companies, global brands and the nation’s largest retailers rely on them to enhance and shape the customer experience at retail.


Twitter: @MedallionRetail



A Tale About The Power of “Yes”

Once upon a time, a fruit farmer wanted to share some land with another local farmer who grew vegetables.  The fruit farmer had too much land, and a portion of his land was only fertile for root veggies.  The fruit farmer also knew that the vegetable farmer had some land that was in a perfect area for growing fruit trees.  The fruit farmer had also developed a new irrigation procedure, and as an incentive for the land swap, he offered to share his new innovation with the vegetable farmer.

The fruit farmer approached the vegetable farmer and suggested a land swap and an introduction to his new irrigation system.  The vegetable farmer was slightly suspicious at first, but decided to say, “Yes” because the two farmers were not in direct competition, and his unused area of land would be wasted otherwise.  The farmers planted on each other’s land and shared their ideas and technology.  When the harvest season came, the vegetable farmer had increased his yield by 25% because of the added land.  He also had larger, healthier and tastier vegetable because of the innovative irrigation.  Unfortunately, the fruit farmer was not as lucky.  The portion of land he borrowed from the vegetable farmer was infested, and he lost that part of his crop. 

 The veggie farmer, being so thankful for the fruit farmer’s gift, choose to promote the fruit farmer’s product to his customers, which allowed the fruit farmer to make up for the loss.  A friendship for life was formed.  Both farmer’s continued to work together, share land, and cross-market each other’s produce.  As the years went by, their success resulted in a bounty that allowed their families to grow further strengthening the bond.  The fruit farmer’s daughter ended up marrying the vegetable farmer’s son, and as the two families became one.  Success in friendship, business, wealth, health, family and love all came to be…and all because of the word “YES.”

However, the above story never happened because in reality, the veggie farmer said “No.”

(The story is a metaphor for all the missed possibilities that could have been had we said “Yes.”  We have all experienced suspicion and fear.  Next time, think of what you might miss out on when you are quick to say “No.”)



Improv Wisdom

As I exercised my faculty discount I found myself in a conversation with the clerk checking out my art supplies at FLAX.  He asked me what I taught at Stanford, and when I replied “Improvisation” he cheered up.

“What do you teach in an improv class?” he asked.  

“Improv is where we put people above ideas,” I replied (surprising myself with this slick logo).  “More important than content is relationship.  It’s the class in which we learn that good will and cooperation trumps cleverness. In an improv class we study how to put our ego in the back seat.”

At least these are the values that I emphasize when I teach the fundamentals of improvising.  Intrinsic to the practice of Yes-AND is the notion that my job as a partner is to accept, make sense out of and then add to whatever my partner offers to start a scene.  It does not matter what the offer is. We simply avoid judgment or evaluation during the act of improvising.  (That may come later … ) Knowing that we are on stage (in this life?) together to move a story forward in real time means that I have to develop the part of me that creates constructively with the materials at hand whatever they are.  I don’t have time to stand around and debate if this is a good idea.   It’s my job to make it work.  And what blows me away is how often this strategy succeeds at creating something wonderful. 

Of course, the work place isn’t an improv stage, and there are consequences to decisions.  In the big picture the improv maxim:  “All ideas are equally valid … as starting places” isn’t strictly true.  Some ideas turn out to be better than others.  However, if we use the improv model to explore possibilities to get to those really useful ideas/products/approaches I believe that worlds can open up.  And, a secondary payoff in the workplace is the sense of trust and good will that can develop among colleagues if we all become more likely to accept the ideas of others.  Playing the critic is so yesterday! Wouldn’t you like to be part of a company that puts people above ideas?  I would.  

Patricia Ryan Madson

Author of IMPROV WISDOM: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up, Bell Tower, 2005.



The PIT’s Corporate Workshops Video



Gilder Gagnon Howe & Co. Testimonial

As a collective of stock market investors we’ve each spent years understanding the intricacies of our favorite industries.  We thought we would take an improv class to help us work together during meetings with companies. When participating in the class, however, we recognized it would help us work together. 

We had grown so focused on listening to others, we had forgotten how to listen to each other. While we no longer remember the specific games we played in class that day, we all remember the power of saying “Yes, and” instead of “No.”  Not only do we start pooling knowledge together when we say it, but our listening and memory seem to become heightened once we hear it.  

If you work in a group, there is no better investment than taking your co-workers to a workshop at The PIT.

Yaroslav Faybishenko

 Gilder Gagnon and Howe