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Four Day Weekend Improv Comedy Teaches Students the Power of “Yes, and…”

Imagine how creative or productive you could be if you knew that every idea you brought to the table wouldn’t be brought down but instead would be built upon with “yes, and...” 

April 24,  2014

By Elaine Cole

The Bolin Innovation Forum brought nationally renowned improv comedy group Four Day Weekend to campus to show how being collaborative, imaginative and positive can change the way you do business, start a business and live your life.

Improvisation is built on collaboration. That same team spirit is what made Four Day Weekend a national sensation.

Four Day Weekend started with $700 and a Fort Worth show that was supposed to last six weeks. Then they were asked to stay. They said: “Yes, and we would like a bigger piece of the gate.” Then they got a bigger venue. They added shows. Then the CEO of a major corporation saw their show and asked if they would consider doing corporate shows. They said: “Yes, and we’d like to start with yours.” Now they are known across the country for teaching the “yes, and…” art of improvisation to business professionals.

On April 10, David Ahearn, David Wilk and Frank Ford talked about their entrepreneurial journey and the power of “yes, and…” They entertained and enlightened an audience of hundreds of students from universities across the country and around the world who had come to TCU to participate in the Richards Barrentine Values and Ventures® Business Plan Competition, as well as students, faculty and staff of the Neeley School and guests.

“Can you think of a more unique way to challenge college students to be creative and innovative than to have them experience a world-class improvisational group in action?” Brad Hancock, Davis Family Entrepreneur in Residence and director of the Neeley Entrepreneurship Center, asked.

“Four Day Weekend’s theme of how entrepreneurship is like improv is a perfect description of how entrepreneurs often build their companies,” said Franz Lohrke, the Brock Family Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship at the Brock School of Business at Samford University. “Few new ventures turn out exactly as planned, so the ability to adapt is a critical entrepreneurial skill.”

Through character sketches, audience participation and personal stories, Four Day Weekend demonstrated the power of striking the word “no” from your vocabulary and replacing it with “yes, and...”

Wyndi Grant, a student at the University of Texas at Arlington, volunteered to participate in a skit on stage. “It was fun and definitely tough since I've never done something so unrehearsed with a complete stranger, but the skit made me realize just how much saying no affects not only the person being told no but also the one saying no. Seeing the success that they have had with this mindset of inspired me to adopt it and it has been a refreshing change. It has allowed me to see the potential of ideas and points of view of others that I might not see at first glance.”

Four Day Weekend emphasized that if an organization or person cultivates a culture where people can come with any idea, people will bring ideas. When you “yes, and…” an idea, it becomes “our” idea, a collaborative effort.

O. Homer Erekson, John V. Roach Dean of the Neeley School of Business, also volunteered to participate on stage.

“Did I enjoy attending this amazing presentation and even participating on stage? Yes, and the message about finding paths to success and having that become a part of an approach to work, life and relationships is so powerful,” Erekson said. “But it’s more than just about having a positive attitude; it’s also about the ‘and.’ How we work effectively with others to dream bold dreams, to encourage and support each other, to realize that building a business or a business school involves capitalizing on the talents, strengths and energies of so many partners and friends.”

Bailey Williams, a student at Appalachian State University, said she was familiar with the “yes, and…” approach since she is a fan of improvisational comedy.

“They showed how ‘yes, and…’ loosens your mind a little and allows you to make decisions or choices you might not make, to expand your horizon and opportunities,” she said. “It was wonderful that everyone got to see that. And the more you practice, it becomes second nature.”

“Listening to Four Day Weekend was one of my favorite things about the TCU Values and Ventures Competition,” said Daniel Denning, a student at the Brock School of Business at Samford University, who participated in a skit on stage. “While they were extremely hilarious and fun to interact with, I also learned some great lessons to apply to my business career and life in general. They pointed out that most adults have it engrained into them to instantly say no when opportunities present themselves. New opportunities often take extra work and energy. An entrepreneur is someone who takes advantage of an opportunity they see in the business world; however, if one does not have a mindset focused on ‘yes and,’ he may miss many opportunities that he could benefit from greatly.”