News from the Chicago Chapter

Business Value Behind Second City Improv Exercise: IREM 2018 Midwest Regional Meeting Recap






By Jim Vocos, CPM®
Envision Real Estate & Management Co.
IREM Chicago 2018 President


From May 1 to May 3, I attended the IREM Regional Meetings in Indianapolis. Our IAE and the rest of the Chicago Chapter council and governing council members also were in attendance. We participated in educational and chapter focused sessions, and we were able to listen and interact with an amazing presentation led by Second City Works.

Second City Works, is a branch of the famous Chicago Second City Improv group, which hosts the popular sketch comedy shows.  The group is the business side of Second City, and according to its website, specializes in live learning workshops that transform important information into “entertaining and engaging” information designed to teach practical skills in a low-stakes environment.

“Yes... but, No… but, Yes... and”
Choosing the correct one of these commonly-used short phrases can be the difference between a cultivating working environment and a stagnate one. One of the running themes in Second City’s interactive presentation was creating a safe and inviting atmosphere.  Their goal was to remove as much as our nerves as possible, so we would feel comfortable offering suggestions and comments -- and for some of us (me included) -- bad jokes.

“Yes... but”
The Second City Works instructors, Colleen Murray and Becca Barish, had participants break into groups and instructed us to use the phrase “Yes... but.”  One person would give an idea, and the other would respond with the phrase, “Yes... but.” This would lead to a counter argument and steer the conversation into a dead-end.  What I found most interesting is that I and many others felt most comfortable in the “Yes... but” scenario.  We were waiting for the counter argument and we were ready to strike. Without being cognizant of it, we were conditioned in business atmospheres that may have not encouraged alternate thoughts without a fight.

“No… but”
Colleen and Becca then had our same groups employ the phrase “No… but.”  Even though the prior exercise had used “Yes…but” there was almost no difference in responses from that phrase and the “No…But” phrase. The conversations and counter arguments were very similar in terms of tone of conversation and end result.

“Yes... and”
The last sequence of this group exercise was for each of us to take turns using the phrase “Yes... and.” I must admit this was the most difficult phrase for me to use.  It felt as though we are letting in every idea and there is no editing process. And, there was no argument.  As we continued with the group task, I started to see the effects of “Yes... and.”  More ideas were being offered and ideas were being built off of other ideas.  Without the initial roadblock, there was room for ideas to evolve.  Once all the ideas were on the table, Becca explained that the editing process would begin.

Aside from the great entertainment value, there was much to gain from the Second City Works interactive presentation. They provided a new safe platform for opening your business culture to innovation and through building ideas.  A simple change in nuance, from “Yes... but, No… but,” to Yes... and” can make all the difference in creating a thriving company culture.