Lessons from Tina Fey

I’m getting a sense of deja vu from this article [link no longer available] about Tina Fey’s book, Bossypants.

The author applies lessons from Fey’s book to business. Several of his points hit on things I discuss in my own book, including the “agreement” and “yes, and” concepts you learn in improv:

Fey explains that the first rule of improv is to always agree with your scene partner. Whatever scenario your acting partner has set up is the one you have to follow because otherwise you end up with two people onstage bickering, and then nobody laughs … “[The] Rule of Agreement reminds you to ‘respect what your partner has created’ and to at least start from an open-minded place,” Fey explains. “Start with a yes and see where that takes you.”

The worst thing you can do in an improv scene is to deny the action being established by your scene partners, a la:

  • You’re hot? Why, I’m quite comfortable!
  • No, I’m not dead, I’m just pretending to be!
  • Why are you speaking in that fake British accent?

Denial of the action stops a scene in its tracks. For the ultimate demonstration of the scene-killing power of denial, check out this classic bit from The Office where Michael Scott shoots and kills all of his scene partners.

These show stoppers are alive and well in corporate America. Their default position is to come from “a place of no.” As a result, communications get dragged out, documents end up in a perpetual editing churn cycle, and anything that does ultimately emerge is outdated and meaningless.

People who serve as obstacles eventually get marginalized, as others learn to work around them. Don’t be one of those people. Come from a place of yes.