Google Talks recently posted an hourlong talk in which Google executive chair Eric Schmidt interviews comedian Tina Fey.
The interview is funny and engaging (and occasionally awkward), but an early exchange really jumped out at me. Discussing Fey's new book, Bossypants, Schmidt launched into an improv sketch:
Eric: [pointing finger at Tina] Stop! I've got a gun.
Tina: The gun? The gun I gave you for our wedding anniversary, Eric? How could you?
Eic: We're not married!
Tina: Aha! "We're not married" is a denial. We've learned our first improv lesson.
Fey went on to explain how improv works:
There are some basic rules of improvisation: when you're creating something out of nothing, the first rule is to agree, which is to say yes. ...
The next rule is: yes, and, which is to add on to what you've already agreed upon. ...
You have to be open to any possibility and you're being open to the fact that an idea that you stumble upon together is likely to be more interesting than the idea that you started with as individuals.
This strongly recalled Steven Johnson's TED talk on the origins of innovation, in which he argued that good ideas emerge from people collaborating to cobble together something new using parts that are lying around.
Johnson concluded: "Chance favours the connected mind," an approach that seems profoundly in keeping with the basic principles of improv.
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