The Purpose – - or What’s the Point?

May 16, 2011  |  Architecture, Life  |  Share

nice man-hands...

The last few days I have posted things that, at first, glance may appear disparate and incongruous. However, they are related to one over-arching thought regarding business. I wanted to share one more thing today, before I launch into my “big point” tomorrow; I thought I was going to type all of this directly out of Tina Fey’s book “Bossypants” (a fun read) until I found this great link from somebody who had already done the work for me! Hooray for Cedar Sage Marketing (whomever you are… from wherever you are). They saved me a series of hand cramps and gave me back an hour of my life. A heartfelt thanks to you.

This post is regarding the rules of “improv” or improvisational acting. Improv is not related to the business that they teach in business school; but it is directly related to a creative business like architecture. You don’t have to look far to see similarities between creatives. I’ll dive in a little deeper in the next few days; but for now, ruminate on this:

Rule 1. Start with Yes

Tina Fey’s example:
Actor: “Freeze, I have a gun!”
Bad improv response: “No you don’t, that’s your finger.”
Good response: “The gun I gave you for Christmas? You jerk!”

When you say no, the interaction comes to a screeching halt. So even when ideas or questions seem otherworldly or catch you completely by surprise, you should open your mind to new possibilities. By starting with yes, you learn more about their situation and can uncover ways to provide value. Some of your most creative and satisfying work can stem from a client project that at first glance seemed either overwhelming or just a non-starter. As Tina says, “start with a yes, and see where that takes you.”

Rule 2. Say “Yes, and —–”

Her example:
Actor: “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here.”
Bad improv response: “Yeah.”
Good response: “I told you we shouldn’t have crawled into this dog’s mouth.”

Make a contribution; always add something of your own. Of course, responsible professionals address their clients’ most pressing needs. But most know we owe our clients more. If your experience tells you – or even nags you – that your client understands only part of the problem, you do your best to define the rest and propose a fuller solution. If their problem is outside of your expertise, you tell them and recommend another professional. If a new technology or solution appears on the horizon that will benefit them, you tell them. Keep your clients up to date, but know that they won’t always be willing or able to implement.

Rule 3. Make statements – Don’t ask questions all the time

Fey’s example:

Bad improv: Who are you? Where are we? What are we doing here? What’s in that box?
(This puts pressure on the other actor to come up with all the answers.)
Good improv: Here we are in Spain, Dracula.

Don’t get me wrong – you have to ask your clients both open-ended and closed-ended questions to understand their situation. And you know it’s good practice to check your assumptions about their needs over time. But once you’re in a successful ongoing relationship, resist the urge to rest on your laurels. Avoid questions that you really should know the answer to, such as “Where are we on this?” and “Didn’t I get back to you on that already?”

Rule 4. There are no mistakes, only opportunities

Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes (Oscar Wilde). So don’t be afraid to make them. We all make mistakes – service professionals and clients alike. A mistake either magically morphs into something you can brag about later, or it’s one more notch on the old experience belt.

Tina Fey calls mistakes “beautiful, happy accidents” like Reese’s peanut butter cups or Botox.

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