Dan Pink and Improv Skills

Dan Pink is coming out with a new book on December 31, 2012.  It’s called, To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others.  To “sell”, for him, includes much of what we do all day which is convince, persuade and motivate people to do what we want or need them to do.

An applied improv colleague of mine, Lindsey, has been emailing with him about improvisation and like little schoolgirls amped up about a cute teacher, we’ve gotten excited each time there’s been contact.  Lindsey recently sent me a link to a video of Dan talking about his new book.  In the video there is a section where he talks about what skills are needed to sell/persuade/motivate and he says “the three skills of improvisation are possibly THE most important skills to have for persuading people.”

Those of you who know what I’ve been up to for the past 5 years know why I’m excited about this.  The skills of improvisation are what I’ve been promoting and training in my management, customer service and teambuilding workshops.  So those of you who’ve been in them, we’re ahead of the curve.  For those who may not have understood why I’m so excited about the skills of improvisation, I’m hoping that Dan’s book will clarify the need.

In my work with libraries, these are the skills I focus on the most, all of which must be practiced with the spirit of “Yes, And.”

  • Be Present
  • Listen
  • Support your partner
  • Take risks

I guess I’ll have to buy Dan’s book to find out what three all important skills of improvisation he chooses.

In my pondering what Dan will call his three important skills I got inspired to poke around to see how other applied improvisers talk about the skills of improvisation.  (I’ve done it many times before, since it’s a relatively new field, there is always something new to discover.) Here’s a list of skills that make perfect sense when you think about improvisational theater.   They are also absolutely relevant to libraries thinking about the future.

  • Notice more
  • Be changed by what you hear
  • Accept offers
  • Let go of your agenda
  •  Embrace constraints
  • Make the other people look good

No matter what the exact language, the intention behind all of this is to have us all reduce stress, communicate better and do more creative solution finding to serve our communities.  Thanks Dan.

What Does it Mean to Have an Organizational Culture of “Yes”

In my last blog post, I asked the question  “What would happen if your organizational culture was one of “yes”?  I imagined that some people reading the post thought something like “She’s crazy!  If we say “yes” to anything more, we’ll explode.”  Indeed, libraries already do so many things for so many people that adding more, probably won’t work.  I’d like to clarify what I mean by creating a culture of “yes.”

When answering a yes or no question such as, “Would you like to go to the beach?”  a “yes” answer expresses affirmation.  People like to hear “yes.” It feels better (a clue as to the value of “yes” in bringing people together).

When talking about creating an organizational culture of “yes”, it’s important to understand that “yes” does not necessarily mean agreement. It means “I hear you and accept your offer and will look for the possibilities” as opposed to “here are all the reasons your crazy, misguided idea won’t work.”

A culture of “yes” is one where people are committed to listening for possibilities, to putting their internal critic on hold, and to appreciating all contributions.

In a culture of “yes”, people feel safe to suggest, to give feedback and to experiment because they know people will listen for what’s good and useful.

In a culture of “yes”, people will learn that it’s safe to ask for clarification when they don’t understand.  They will learn that “mistakes” should be mined for information instead of being grounds for punishment.

Once you build this kind of trust in your organization, all staff will feel empowered to help find solutions and create new services.  So, consider starting to create a culture of “yes” in your organization because with everything the libraries are trying to provide these days, we need all the yessing we can get!