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Designed and run by Assemble
1
Improv Tools for
Startup Teams
How improv can help your team thrive.
RIP
?=
It turns out, improvisational
theater and startups have a
lot in common.
2
3
In both, you make something
out of nothing.
4
And, in both, what more than
often makes or breaks success
is the way we work together.
So, we thought…
What if we took the core lessons world-class improvisers
use to create hilarious scenes, and used them to help us
become better founders, teammates, and organizations?
5
And then we thought…
What if we could build super-practical tools based on those
principles that founders, teammates, and leaders could use
to help them get unstuck, build consensus, and get things
done?
6
7
RIP
?=
In other words…
Improv Tools for
Startups
Imagine what we could achieve if
our teams worked together
effortlessly.
NEW PRODUCTS
BUILT
CAMPAIGNS
LAUNCHED
SALES INCREASED
EXPONENTIALLY
INTRACTABLE
PROBLEMS SOLVED
REALLY GREAT TEAM
BANTER
WORK THAT FEELS
LIKE PLAY
8
It’s possible.
Here’s how.
9
BUILD THE
PLANE AS
YOU FLY IT
Don’t over-engineer. Move
something forward, and
you’ll know what to do next
once you do.
10
IMPROV PRINCIPLE #1
In improv, you don’t know what
you’re making until you’ve already
made it - you’re building the plane
as you fly it.
11
With teams, it’s the exact same
thing. You start with an idea of
what you’ll accomplish—but
you’re almost always wrong.
12
But as a team, you still have to
figure out how to get something
done. So, what do you do?
13
THE VERY
NEXT THING
“What’s the very next thing we
can do to move this forward?”
Pick a problem you are overwhelmed
by and might be tempted to
overbuild. Set the timer for 5 minutes,
and ask yourself:
“What’s the very next thing we can do
to move this forward?”
“What’s the very next thing we can
do to move that forward?”
(and so on and so forth…)
When you have something you can
actually finish in less than five
minutes. Go do it.
14
HOW TO PLAY
IMPROV GAME #1
QUESTIONS
KILL, GIFTS
GIVE LIFE
When execution matters most,
questions destroy momentum.
Instead, give your teammates
“gifts”: new information,
suggestions, and ideas.
15
RIP
?=
IMPROV PRINCIPLE #2
In improv, questions put all the
work on your scene partner. Great
improvisers will turn questions
into decisions that move the
scene forward.
16
With teams, it’s the exact same
thing. When execution is what
matters most, questions can
destroy momentum and keep you
from moving forward.
17
So, what can you do to encourage
action when action is what’s
called for?
18
NO QUESTION
ZONES
“We’ve got to get this done. Let’s
try a no question zone and see
how much progress we can
make.”
Pick a project where getting it done
matters most. Set the timer for 10
minutes, and tell your team:
“For the next 10 minutes, no one can
ask questions—if you’re unsure about
a part of the project, pick an answer
and roll with it.
Remember—execution is what
matters here. That means there are no
“bad” choices—every choice a
teamember makes in this game is a
good one.
19
HOW TO PLAY
IMPROV GAME #2
RIP
?=
SAY YES,
AND…
Accept what your
teammates bring to the
table, then build on it.
20
IMPROV PRINCIPLE #3
The most fundamental of all
improv rules is say yes. We have
to accept what our partners bring
to the table if we’re going to go
anywhere together.
21
The problem is (especially in
teams with strong opinions) we’re
much more likely to want to say,
“No, but…”
22
If you’ve hit gridlock with a
teammate, there’s a way you can
use that conflict to find new ways
to move forward—without
sacrificing both points of view.
23
YES FEST
“It sounds like we really disagree
here. Let’s play yes fest and see
what solutions we can come up
with.”
Pick something your team has a
strong disagreement on. Choose one
side and set a timer for 5 minutes.
Tell your team:
“We’re going to act as if we’ve
decided to go this direction. Each time
we speak,we have to start with ‘yes,
and….’ and build on what the last
person said.
Then, switch perspectives and for 5
minutes say “Yes, and…” to the other
side.
24
HOW TO PLAY
IMPROV GAME #3
You’ve got the tools, now it’s
time to go play.
Pick a tool and try it out today—you’ll be the hero of
your team. And let us know how it goes. Email Trevor
on our team with your story:
trevor@howweassemble.com
25
Want even more?
Want your whole team to become collaboration
masters? We’ll run custom workshops for teams sizes
2-200.
Go to howwassemble.com to learn more.
26
Brought to you by Assemble.
We help organizations become unreasonably effective at working together. We’re
a team of coaches, facilitators, and interaction designers who create and lead
custom workshops to help you build trust, make decisions, and get things done.
27
THE END.
Go and build something amazing together.
Designed and run by Assemble

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Improv tools for startup teams

  • 1. Designed and run by Assemble 1 Improv Tools for Startup Teams How improv can help your team thrive. RIP ?=
  • 2. It turns out, improvisational theater and startups have a lot in common. 2
  • 3. 3 In both, you make something out of nothing.
  • 4. 4 And, in both, what more than often makes or breaks success is the way we work together.
  • 5. So, we thought… What if we took the core lessons world-class improvisers use to create hilarious scenes, and used them to help us become better founders, teammates, and organizations? 5
  • 6. And then we thought… What if we could build super-practical tools based on those principles that founders, teammates, and leaders could use to help them get unstuck, build consensus, and get things done? 6
  • 8. Imagine what we could achieve if our teams worked together effortlessly. NEW PRODUCTS BUILT CAMPAIGNS LAUNCHED SALES INCREASED EXPONENTIALLY INTRACTABLE PROBLEMS SOLVED REALLY GREAT TEAM BANTER WORK THAT FEELS LIKE PLAY 8
  • 10. BUILD THE PLANE AS YOU FLY IT Don’t over-engineer. Move something forward, and you’ll know what to do next once you do. 10 IMPROV PRINCIPLE #1
  • 11. In improv, you don’t know what you’re making until you’ve already made it - you’re building the plane as you fly it. 11
  • 12. With teams, it’s the exact same thing. You start with an idea of what you’ll accomplish—but you’re almost always wrong. 12
  • 13. But as a team, you still have to figure out how to get something done. So, what do you do? 13
  • 14. THE VERY NEXT THING “What’s the very next thing we can do to move this forward?” Pick a problem you are overwhelmed by and might be tempted to overbuild. Set the timer for 5 minutes, and ask yourself: “What’s the very next thing we can do to move this forward?” “What’s the very next thing we can do to move that forward?” (and so on and so forth…) When you have something you can actually finish in less than five minutes. Go do it. 14 HOW TO PLAY IMPROV GAME #1
  • 15. QUESTIONS KILL, GIFTS GIVE LIFE When execution matters most, questions destroy momentum. Instead, give your teammates “gifts”: new information, suggestions, and ideas. 15 RIP ?= IMPROV PRINCIPLE #2
  • 16. In improv, questions put all the work on your scene partner. Great improvisers will turn questions into decisions that move the scene forward. 16
  • 17. With teams, it’s the exact same thing. When execution is what matters most, questions can destroy momentum and keep you from moving forward. 17
  • 18. So, what can you do to encourage action when action is what’s called for? 18
  • 19. NO QUESTION ZONES “We’ve got to get this done. Let’s try a no question zone and see how much progress we can make.” Pick a project where getting it done matters most. Set the timer for 10 minutes, and tell your team: “For the next 10 minutes, no one can ask questions—if you’re unsure about a part of the project, pick an answer and roll with it. Remember—execution is what matters here. That means there are no “bad” choices—every choice a teamember makes in this game is a good one. 19 HOW TO PLAY IMPROV GAME #2 RIP ?=
  • 20. SAY YES, AND… Accept what your teammates bring to the table, then build on it. 20 IMPROV PRINCIPLE #3
  • 21. The most fundamental of all improv rules is say yes. We have to accept what our partners bring to the table if we’re going to go anywhere together. 21
  • 22. The problem is (especially in teams with strong opinions) we’re much more likely to want to say, “No, but…” 22
  • 23. If you’ve hit gridlock with a teammate, there’s a way you can use that conflict to find new ways to move forward—without sacrificing both points of view. 23
  • 24. YES FEST “It sounds like we really disagree here. Let’s play yes fest and see what solutions we can come up with.” Pick something your team has a strong disagreement on. Choose one side and set a timer for 5 minutes. Tell your team: “We’re going to act as if we’ve decided to go this direction. Each time we speak,we have to start with ‘yes, and….’ and build on what the last person said. Then, switch perspectives and for 5 minutes say “Yes, and…” to the other side. 24 HOW TO PLAY IMPROV GAME #3
  • 25. You’ve got the tools, now it’s time to go play. Pick a tool and try it out today—you’ll be the hero of your team. And let us know how it goes. Email Trevor on our team with your story: trevor@howweassemble.com 25
  • 26. Want even more? Want your whole team to become collaboration masters? We’ll run custom workshops for teams sizes 2-200. Go to howwassemble.com to learn more. 26
  • 27. Brought to you by Assemble. We help organizations become unreasonably effective at working together. We’re a team of coaches, facilitators, and interaction designers who create and lead custom workshops to help you build trust, make decisions, and get things done. 27
  • 28. THE END. Go and build something amazing together. Designed and run by Assemble