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Encouraging innovation and creativity: The power of “Yes, and ...”

June 14, 2017 Article 1 min read

Woman watching the sunset over a cityscape 

“Yes, but ...”

How many times have you responded with a “Yes, but ...” when a friend, family member, or co-worker suggested a new idea that was slightly different from your opinion or the status quo? Rather than encourage dialogue or collaboration, this response tends to shut down dialogue and create a monologue as one person tries to impose his or her “right” idea onto the other.

“Yes, and ...”

Improvisational comedy (or “Improv”) offers an alternative approach — one that can increase innovation, creativity, and efficiencies in all aspects of our daily lives. The technique called “Yes, and ...” is a foundational tool that encourages performers to embrace and build on the ideas of their fellow performers. Improv performers are taught to say the words, “Yes, and …” when they’re engaged in conversation with another person — no matter what the other person says.

Let’s provide a quick example of a “scene.” The live audience names a place (the beach) and the relationships of the two performers (brother and sister).

Brother: Carol, remember the last time we were here, and a treasure chest blew ashore right in front of our beach house?

Sister: Yes, and I remember opening the chest and being so happy that there were two cases of Twinkies inside.

See how it works? This method encourages camaraderie, creativity, and knowledge building. If you substitute the words, “clients,” “customers,” “friends,” or “family” for “fellow performers,” you can quickly begin to see potential applications in our everyday lives.

Edward de Bono, one of the gurus in the creativity and innovation field, describes “lateral thinking” as the ability to think differently. The “Yes, and …” technique embraces diverse points of view and new twists on existing ideas. Consequently, it serves as an effective antidote to “Yes, but …” responses, which tend to shut down dialogue. So the next time you’re in a conversation with someone, try the “Yes, and ...” technique, and watch how the other person responds.  Odds are, the conversation will take you to a different place — a better one.

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