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  • Writer's pictureStephen

"Yes, and...!"

I had the honor of facilitating a conversation last week with a board of directors for a great organization.  During part of the session, we were working on some next steps for the agency and I noticed we were in danger of missing some critical ideas because we were starting to wander into the "Yeah, buts."  This is what happens when an idea is presented and the initial response to that idea is, "Yeah, but...." It may be a good idea, but here are all of the reasons why that idea won't work.

When we get into this "yeah, but..." territory it can sometimes shut down the free flow of ideas, so I introduced the group to the central rule of true brainstorming, "Yes, and...!" Interestingly enough, this is also the golden rule of great improv comedy. The "Yes, and..." rule says that any idea or statement can only be followed by the words, "Yes, and...."  It's about joining with and carrying on the conversation, rather than setting up a roadblock or a barrier to the previous idea.

Whenever I use this tool, it's always interesting to see how quickly people pick up on it.  Some will start using it right away.  Someone presents an idea and the next person immediately says, "Yes, and...."  But the real power happens when someone catches themself starting to say a "yeah, but..." and then they correct, and change their thought to a "Yes, and..."  It's quite powerful to watch how quickly it can generate positive movement and the free flow of ideas.

I first learned this brainstorming concept from a seminar I attended with a Disney Imagineer. He was one of the people who actually helped to create the various lands in the original Disneyland, and he told stories about how using this rule in their brainstorming sessions helped them create even more magical worlds than they could have first imagined! 

Ever since then, there have been so many places in life I have found the "Yes, and..." rule so helpful. It made me a better parent, a better life partner, and a better leader.  It also made me realize how often my default is to go toward "Yeah, but...", but how much I want my default in life to be, "Yes, and...!"  I want to be a person who joins with others. I want to be a partner and help move conversations, relationships, and organizations forward, not get stuck in old ways of thinking and doing. Don't get me wrong, there is a time and a place for understanding practical limitations, but I don't want that to get in the way of being someone who is dreaming about possibilities. 

How about you? Are you more of a "Yeah, but...", or a "Yes, and..." person? Are there certain areas of your life where you recognize your default is to see the limitations, and if so, how could you adjust your perspective to apply the "Yes, and..." rule a little more in that space? What would it look like to be a person who joins with those who are around you this week? What impact might that have on them, and you?

Hey! I've got an idea for this week. "Yes, and...!"

Be Well,


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