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There’s More to ‘Yes And’ Than Meets the ‘I’

It’s not new news that one of the theories of creative collaboration is based on the improv technique of “yes and…”. For anyone unfamiliar with this – the basic idea is, rather than shutting down someone’s idea or imposing your own, you’re supposed to bring yourself to the party and add to, jam on, or elevate starting with a simple ‘yes and…?

Let’s try and kick it up a notch using the technique shall we?

Yes and… what if we took this spirit of collaboration and added a healthy dose of curiosity to it? And by curiosity, I don’t mean cynicism or critique.  I mean honest and open curiosity that begins with “yes and…why”? This teeny phrase can actually have an effect on your brain. By asking open-ended questions about ideas, you’re tricking both your and the idea sharer’s brain into developing better solutions. Our brains can’t do a damned thing with criticism, aka negative statements. In fact, research has proven that our brain activity remains neutral when confronted with criticism. But ask the brain a question and it can’t resist ticking away to try and provide an answer. And it puts all parties into problem solving mode – helping to ensure that the proposed idea or solution is on target to actually solve the problems.

Now try “yes and…how?” This takes you into ‘doability’. Instead of rejecting an idea because its too lofty or crazy, it forces to look at the obstacles and overcome them one by one. By doing it in the moment, you can quickly discern whether there are in fact ways around which will get you excited about the prospect of jumping the hurdles as opposed to being daunted by them.

There’s a trick though. It’s all in your face and tone of voice….

So forget ‘yes but’ or the squinty-eyed cynical face. Next time someone brings you an idea, try jamming on the why and how with wide-eyed optimism, curiousity and a real desire to bring the idea to life. You’ll be amazed at what might happen.

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