A simple difference between great improvisers and good, mediocre, or bad improvisers is how they respond to “Happy Accidents.” Here is a short video where I talk more about that (there’s a transcription of the video below):
This is very true for improv comedy performance, but it also applies off-stage, when mistakes happen and things go wrong.
The natural response for so many is to fix the mistake and move on. This is not a terrible approach, and it’s certainly better than ignoring or trying to cover up the mistake, but it does cause people to miss opportunities for innovation.
This is double true for managers, leaders, and mentors. When someone you are leading makes a mistake, correcting that mistake is important. But what could be even more impactful is if you can from time to time use those mistakes as launching points to innovate and improve.
Yes, mistakes can be trouble and costly and avoiding them is a good thing. But they will still happen and when they do, it’s up to you to decide how you will use them!
Here's a quick improv tip you can apply on-stage or off, and that is to say “yes, and” to “happy accidents”
A lot of time when you're performing improv someone forgets something - they use the wrong name, they misremember a fact that you set up earlier in the scene, etc., and the common response there is to say “yes, but,” correct it and move on.
However when we say “yes, and” to those though because those can open up a lot of creativity and move things forward.
For example i was working with a couple people and they did a scene where they were a boy and a girl 17 years old and at one point someone said “I've been coming here for 20 years.”
Now they tried to explain it away with the person saying “oh, it feels like 20 years,” when I said “no, no, that's a happy
accident! Lean into that!”
And what they did is this whole scene became about how the person was actually 25. This opened up this thing about him being a con-man, about potentially getting in trouble
with the law, it made it much more interesting.
So when you have those happy accidents on stage or off say “yes, and” and see how you can use them to make things better and more interesting.