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  • Writer's pictureCharlie Vero-Martin

Say "Yes, and..."

Updated: Jul 14, 2019

"Yes, and" is the core concept of improv but what does that mean and how can it help you in business?

The general idea is that you listen to your scene partner's suggestion, agree with it and then build on it. When improvisers start out they drill this concept by literally repeating the words "yes and" at the start of every line. My favourite version of this game is "Broadway/Hollywood producers", where the person starting comes up with a concept for a musical.

A: I want to put on a musical about a small-town baker.

B: Yes, and she's really good at making hot cross buns.

A: Yes, and they attract a lot of customers.

B: Yes, and they all sing about how amazing the buns are.

A: Yes, and that catches the attention of the media.

B: Yes, and she becomes famous worldwide.

You get the idea. Now try it with "Yes, but..."

A: I want to put on a musical about a small-town baker.

B: Yes but she should be a plumber.

A: Yes but she likes baking.

B: Yes but she's good at fixing toilets.

A: Yes but toilets are smelly.

Not much being achieved here. And yet, this is how a lot of meetings go. When everyone tries to push their own agenda instead of hearing one another out, you end up talking in circles and having nothing to show.

Another version of this exercise is just saying "yes" and or asking questions.

A: I want to put on a musical about a small-town baker.

B: Sure. Who will play her?

A: Um, Cher?

B: Ok. And what does she bake?

A: Cakes?

B: Yes.

There's a lot of pressure being put on the other person. Again, if you take turns playing this you will notice you feel almost like your idea is being interrogated and not supported even though the person is technically saying "yes".

If you find that some of your colleagues or employees are feeling dismissed it may be because you’re not properly practicing "Yes, and..."

Don't get me wrong, this isn't about becoming a "Yes Man" to win favour. This is about exploring ideas in a more effective way and showing you're a supportive team member by being open to collaboration. Of course not all ideas will work out but try to find its potential before shooting it down.

So next time you find yourself saying "yes but" try "yes and" and see where the creative flow takes you!


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