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YES WE CAN

“Yes, And…”

Explore the power of "Yes, and" vs "Yes, but". Discover how these phrases transform decision-making, fostering creativity and inclusivity in a fun, improvisational exercise.

Instructions

The objective of this exercise is to introduce participants to the fundamental principles of improvisation, specifically the concepts of “Yes, but” and “Yes, and.” Participants will practice building on each other’s ideas in a fun and low-pressure setting.

Divide participants into pairs. Explain to participants that they will be planning your birthday party with their partner.

First, tell participants to have one partner begin by saying “Let’s plan [your name] a birthday party!” Then, the second participant will respond by saying “Yes, but…” and then adding a suggestion for the party.

The exercise may go like this:
Person #1: “Let’s plan Nathan a birthday party!”
Person #2: “Yes, but I’m not sure that he really likes parties.”
Person #1: “Yes, but he would really appreciate his friends coming together.”
Person #2: “Yes, but I don’t even know his friends!”


And this continues for about 2 minutes.

After the first approach, explain the second approach to planning a birthday party. This second approach has two differences.

First, they are no longer planning you a birthday party, but they’re planning your boss a birthday party.

Second, instead of starting every sentence (excluding the first sentence) with “Yes, but”, they will start every sentence with “Yes, And”.

Part 2 of this exercise may go like this:

Person #1: “Let’s plan Nathan a birthday party!”
Person #2: “Yes, and we should go to the moon.”
Person #1: “Yes, and we should bring his favorite pop star, Justin Beiber.”
Person #2: “Yes, and we should bring The Rock too!”

**And this continues for about 3-4 minutes.**

Takeaway

What was the difference between the two versions?
Which one had the better quality of ideas?
Which one let ideas go further?

The “yes, and” approach is a way of thinking that is open and honest. It doesn’t mean saying yes to everything or agreeing to do everything that comes your way. We just can’t do it all, and obviously, you can’t do everything you plan for a birthday party, because that would mean half of you would probably be in prison and the other half would be billionaires.

Instead, “Yes, and” means acknowledging and understanding the idea or suggestion presented to you and making a genuine effort to consider it, AND try to find ways to make it work. Here, we try to find reasons for the idea to work rather than immediately saying no.

Ultimately, you may still decide not to proceed with the idea, but the “yes, and” principle means giving all ideas a fair chance and exploring all possibilities before making a final decision.

Too often, groups default to “Yes, but” thinking, which causes bad decisions to be made as a result of not fully considering all of the options, along with team members not feeling heard. “Yes, and” is adaptable decision-making. “Yes, and” allows us to ensure we’re making the best decision our team is capable of making by fully considering all of our options before jumping into a decision, and it allows us to generate group buy-in by allowing the group to be instrumental in the process of making the decision.

How did it go?

Email me at Nathan@GreenLightImprov.com, and let me know how it went. I’ll reply with additional tips.

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