Active Support: Choosing to Step Down

There is an interesting phenomenon in the Zen Count game. For those who don’t know, Zen Count is when your group stands in a circle and closes their eyes and together, they count from 1 to 21. One person can say each number in order. If two people say a number at the same time, the group starts over at one. As you can imagine, this gets harder the larger the group.

When everyone tries to participate all the time, you never make it. People are talking over each other, interrupting, and getting frustrated. One secret to this game is that when certain people refrain from counting, it gets easier.

But! You say, isn’t improv about being heard and seen and making sure that I can shine? What? What?

There is a phenomenon called active support (this was pointed out to me by Izzy Gesell, a great Applied Improv teacher and public speaker). It means that you are choosing to let go of your short-term needs for the good of the group.

This is what needs to happen in Design Thinking where you have reached convergence points where a single idea must pass through. You can only take one. So, what’s the best approach? Should you argue your idea to the death? Or, should you take your healthy debate and let the group decide on the best idea?

For the good of the group and your own sanity, someone has to step down. It won’t always be you, but it should be you more often than not. If people are always going with your ideas, you’re missing the thought diversity Design Thinking is supposed to promote.