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Rules for Improvisation Work at Work

I recently read Tina Fey’s book BosssyPants. Not exactly a memoir, it traces her life from growing up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, to college, to Chicago’s Second City impov group, to SNL, to 30 Rock. It’s funny, witty, introspective, and self-deprecating. But this isn’t a book review. To see my take on the books I’ve read, you can go to and review my reviews.

What I found worth a second and third look was her review of the Rules of Improvisation. As I learned via Tina, what makes for a good improvisational skit and a valuable improvisational partner also worked as a pretty great blueprint for professionals at work.

Tina says: Agree to say yes. In Improv, you respect what your partner has created; start with ‘yes’ and see where it leads.

I say – At work, rather than point out why things won’t or can’t work, start with ‘yes,’ respect what others have produced and see if that direction will get you to a successful outcome


Tina says: Say ‘Yes’ and then say ‘AND.’ Agree with your partner and then add something of your own. Don’t be afraid to contribute. Your role is to be part of the discussion.

I say  – At work, build on the initial proposition to make it better. If you are on a team, you have a role to play. Contribute to the outcome because it should be a team effort; that’s why you are there.


Tina says: Make statements. Don’t just ask questions because all you are doing is putting pressure on the other people. Be part of the solution. This is especially true for women.

I say – At work, speak in the active voice rather than a passive one. Rather than posing questions for others, respond to the situation with information. Women need to take particular care in sounding confident and self-assured.


Tina says: There are no mistakes, only opportunities. And mistakes can lead to great discoveries.

I say – At work, there may be mistakes, but some are worth making. We learn a great deal from effort and attempting to attain goals and objectives.  Mistakes can lead to finding the answer and may even result in surpassing expectations.


If you are interested in reading the observations of a successful woman who seems to be going about her life and her job (jobs) with a keen awareness that she is smart, talented, lucky, and as she reminds herself and the reader  – grateful (she is acutely aware that the work she does is not as difficult as working in a coal mine) – Bossypants  is worth a look.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 10th, 2012 at 8:49 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.