An Offer They Can't Refuse

Written by David Pullan

An Offer They Can't Refuse

Over the years McKechnie and I have worked with some of the best improvisation teachers in the world. I’m presuming you all know what I mean by improvisation in a theatrical sense, but if not, think ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway’ ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ and ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm.’ Essentially it is creating theatre from nothing but suggestions that you are given either by the audience, your environment or your fellow performers. These suggestions are called offers, and improvisers are taught that there is huge value in making strong and definite offers that others can work with.


This week I want to look at how that same principle might unlock relationship building in business.


A few days ago we were invited to dinner with a client for whom we are co-delivering a big project over the next two weeks. It was an important meeting as it was the first time they had met us in the flesh and it was the first time that we had spoken directly to them about what we were going to do as facilitators and coaches.


Now in a situation like this you can play it safe, try to impress and talk through models and process, or you can do something slightly different, slightly riskier and definitely more memorable. In other words you can make a strong offer.


No prizes for guessing which option we went for.


One of the things this client will struggle with is bringing together a large group who don’t know each other very well. The success of the project hinges on this group trusting each other and communicating openly.


A task we are setting them over lunch on day one is to find out from as many people as possible what they wanted to be when they were 10 years old.


So at dinner, instead of describing the exercise we decided to play it with the senior management team. 


And lo and behold it went down a storm.


There were chefs, poets, hotel managers and astronauts among us…and there were human bonds forged between colleagues old and new that would never have happened if the conversation had revolved around measurable learning outcomes and criterion referenced instruction.


So what is my point?


Simply this: playing the what you wanted to be at 10 game was a strong offer that allowed people to connect on levels that are rarely reached in a business environment. Because it was done with joy, openness and a total lack of judgement it became a safe environment that paved the way for serious business discussions later.


So this week I want you to think about how you could make either this or a similar strong offer in a situation where you need to build open bonds quickly.


Oh and by the way, I was the astronaut.  



photo credit: <a href="">Consigliere VOL. "His Robert Duvall"</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a>



  • W B Yeats

    'Think like a wise man, but communicate in the language of the people.'