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Enterprise ENCORE

Funny Business

Improv Effects uses comedy approach for business training by

Tiffany Fitzgerald

Dann Sytsma and Brian Lam are yes men.

With more than 30 years of combined experience in business and improvisational comedy, the pair decided in 2012 to merge the two disciplines and create a new brand of team-building workshops using the “Yes, and …” approach. “‘Yes, and …’ is an improv tool comedians use to create a story onstage by building an idea off whatever someone has just said,” Lam explains. “If someone says, ‘This is a stickup,’ you have to say, ‘Oh, yeah, this is a stick up and …’ We expand on that idea in our workshops.” When team members in companies say “Yes, and …” to their coworkers, they build on the ideas of their coworkers, validating one another instead of tearing down

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communication and losing valuable time and resources floating competing ideas, say Lam and Sytsma, “It’s not about taking a bad idea and making it great,” Sytsma says. “It’s about taking the ideas we have and sharpening them. You start to see people take more ownership when other people are contributing with them.” “Yes, and…” is a new method to the companies they work with, but it’s second nature to Sytsma and Lam, who have trained at well-known improv theaters in Chicago — Sytsma at Improv Olympic and Lam at Second City. The two are also well versed in business. Sytsma founded Crawlspace Eviction, Kalamazoo’s longest-running improv theater troupe, and Lam is the owner

of Lam Creative Solutions, a Kalamazoo public-relations and marketing firm. Lam has a background in restaurant and business management; Sytsma, in chemistry. They call their new endeavor Improv Effects. The two met three years ago when Lam interviewed Sytsma while writing an article on Crawlspace Eviction for Encore. Lam began working with Crawlspace Eviction, and, after an “aha” moment at a workshop when he realized how similar improv and business trainings are, he approached Sytsma about creating Improv Effects.

Improv Effects’ Dann Systma, far left, and Brian Lam, standing, laugh with Gazelle Sports staff members during a recent workshop the pair conducted at the store.

Profile for Encore Magazine

January 2014  

Southwest Michigan's Magazine celebrating the great things, people and places found in our corner of the Mitten.

January 2014  

Southwest Michigan's Magazine celebrating the great things, people and places found in our corner of the Mitten.

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