How Tina Fey Can Improve Your Brainstorming Sessions

by Kim Taylor

Last weekend during a road trip with friends I read Tina Fey’s book, “Bossypants.”  Hidden on the pages between the stories of her childhood and her days at “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock” were her Rules of Improvisation.  And, since I have no plans to leave C&P for a career in stand up, I thought it’d be fun to apply these rules to a brainstorming session.

Let’s take a look:

Rules of Improv

“1. Agree. If your improv partner launches a set with “Freeze, I have a gun,”* you don’t break it to him that it’s really just his fingers he’s pointing at you. IF you do that, you’ve just ruined it for everybody. Agree to play by the rules just set forth. He is holding a gun.

First Rule of Brainstorming:  There are no bad ideas.  In other words, when an idea is presented during your brainstorming session, agree.

“2. And … ? Once you agree to agree, it’s not enough to just say “I acknowledge you hold a gun.” That doesn’t get us anywhere, does it? Agree, and then add something of your own. “Freeze, I have a gun.” “The gun I gave you for Christmas! You bastard!*

Maybe it’s not the best idea, but what if you employ the “and …” tactic?  Will it help develop the idea further or flesh it out more?

“3. Make statements. If all you do is ask your improv partner questions, you’re not contributing. “Why are you holding a gun?” Doesn’t cut it. Be bold.

Effective brainstorming is all about participation.  Make a statement.  Believe it.  How else will you convince others it’s an idea worth presenting to a client?

“4. There are no mistakes. Your partner misinterprets your setup? You don’t break the scene by stopping to explain and start over. You roll with it. There is no wrong.

See No. 1 and the first rule of brainstorming.

So, thanks, Tina, this part of your book was even more enlightening than learning what it was like to grow up as a wide-hipped, sarcastic Greek girl with short hair permed on top.

One Response to How Tina Fey Can Improve Your Brainstorming Sessions

  1. I’m still in the process of reading this book (funny, but not quite as laugh-out-loud funny as I was anticipating). It’s odd that you’d mention this here because so far this has been my most favorite part of the book. Definitely stood out to me – I had no idea improve is so orchestrated, and can definitely see a business implication here.

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