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Yes, And

How Improvisation Reverses “No, But” Thinking and Improves Creativity and Collaboration

By Kelly Leonard & Tom Yorton
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Yes, And by Kelly Leonard & Tom Yorton

Yes, And (2015) shows you how by incorporating the techniques of improvisational comedy to the business world, you can generate better ideas and foster more effective communication, with the ultimate goal of building a team ready to meet any challenge. The authors draw on personal experience from working with leading talents such as Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert and Amy Poehler.

Key idea 1 of 8

A strategy used to keep comedians loquacious on stage can help generate business ideas, too.

Have you ever seen an improv comedy show? Seemingly on the spot, actors share hilariously creative and detailed stories. It’s not magic, however; comedians all use a particular, essential tool that gives them a platform to explore a multitude of ideas.

This strategy is called the “yes, and” mind-set. But how exactly does it work?

When an actor uses “yes, and,” she is agreeing to follow through on or add to any narrative started by a collaborator on stage.

Here’s an example. Actor A opens by looking skyward and saying, “What a beautiful night. I can see all the stars.” If Actor B ignored the “yes, and” strategy, she might say, “What are you talking about? It’s daytime.” This deviation from the starting theme could kill the conversation.

But if Actor B was in tune and playing by “yes, and,” she’d further the narrative by saying, “Yes, and the earth looks so small. It’s great we finally took this trip to the moon.”

The genius of “yes, and” is that this strategy opens up unlimited possibilities, by giving every idea the chance to show its potential. And this technique applies to much more than just improv.

You don’t have to look hard to see applications of “yes, and” in the business world, for example.

The online collaborative encyclopedia Wikipedia is a prime example of what can be accomplished when a large group embraces the “yes, and” attitude.

On the site, a user starts an article and others build upon it. In this way, the very nature of the site requires that users add to the work of others.

While there are drawbacks of such a collaborative approach (such as inaccuracies), this free, universally used website would’ve never been possible without the creative synergy of “yes, and.”

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