In the improv comedy world, one of the first things you’re told to do is to go out drinking with your teammates. The point is to spend time together; to encourage a constant flow of communication, build trust and create an environment where there isn’t a moment of hesitation to say the first thing on your mind.
Given the nature of agency-client relationships these days, a drink sounds like a good idea.
58% of marketers report using both agency and in-house resources, and more and more are enlisting the help of multiple, specialized partners in areas like mobile, social content and virtual reality, creating challenges for effective collaboration. And judging by conversations at recent ANA and 4A’s conferences, we’re not there yet. In fact, it’s become apparent that the two trade groups and the constituencies are not seeing eye to eye.
So why not take some advice from some of the best collaborators there are: improv comedy troupes.
1. Embrace “Yes, and…”
While there are no “rules” in improv, there are guidelines. For starters, you’re supposed to maintain a “yes, and” mindset. This means you should accept what your partner says without denying it or questioning the motivation—both of which are known ways to quickly kill a scene (or any brainstorming session for that matter).
In the marketing world, this means keeping an open mind, building on each other’s ideas and skillsets, and bringing a “yes, and” mindset to group efforts like sharing rough ideas or testing prototypes, rather than “yes, but” or the dreaded “no, because.”
2. Use the same tools, the same way.
When working across several agencies, vendors or partners in different buildings, states or even countries—make it easy to connect with each other by establishing guidelines around your communication platforms.
When someone needs to provide feedback or just ask a question, they should know exactly how to reach each other. Whether it be through traditional means like email or phone, or via project/task management platforms like Slack or Basecamp, there should be a shared understanding among all team members as to how to communicate on any element of a project, at any moment.
3. Create a common language.
In improv, you become keenly aware of your teammates’ verbal and nonverbal cues to quickly assess a situation and inform how you should react. Whether it’s a certain look or even a nervous twitch, you immediately recognize what it means. Without saying anything, your partner could be telling you “I have an idea, follow along” or “Help me out, I’m stuck!”
When a project involves numerous partners or various stages, group members should strive to create common terms, phrases or mannerisms, resulting in a unique, short-hand style of communicating. On a recent multi-phase project, one of our teams began using animal names, proving to be an invaluable, time-saving tool.
4. Be willing to adapt in real time.
Agility is everything in improv. At a moments notice, you need to be able to completely change what you’re doing, who you are, and so on. The key to being agile is being a good listener. For example, if your audience isn’t laughing–or is laughing, but nervously–you better change things up quickly.
In today’s real time marketing environment, where we have numerous monitoring tools and more flexibility than ever to optimize campaigns on the fly, don’t be afraid to do the same to your collaboration style. Whether it’s a sudden shift in timelines, priorities, or the introduction of a new tool, the ability to adjust your style, shift focus or adapt a new skill set makes all the difference in the world, especially when time is limited.
What are some of the techniques you use to collaborate with groups? Either among coworkers or across multiple companies? Feel free to share with us in the comments.