The Power of "Yes, And"

Updated: Apr 30

I'm Robert Reid. In addition to being a Principal with Butler Street, I’m also an improv comedian and actor. I have had the opportunity to perform improv for over 20 years and it has had an incredibly positive impact on my life.

So, what is improv? When I ask this question during our workshops, the most common responses I get are “off the cuff,” “made up on the spot” or “spur of the moment” and all of these are correct. In improv, we don’t have a script, a set, props or costumes. Everything we create on stage is 100% made up and our ensemble must really be in tune with each other to pull it off.

What does this all have to do with the business world?

Actually...a lot. And this is the first in a series of blogs in which I will share how using improv concepts can make you a better employee, boss, parent, teacher, toll-booth operator, treasure hunter, shepherd, inmate (ok, I could go on but I should probably stop).

Each blog will focus on one improv technique you can start using today that will have a positive effect on your professional life. For this blog, we’re going to focus on a concept called “Yes, And.” Let’s take a look at a scene to see how it works:

Actor 1: “Captain! Our ship is under attack by a giant squid.”

Actor 2: “YES, AND we should feed it peanut butter crackers to make it go away.”

Remember, Actor 1 made up his line in the moment which meant Actor 2 had no clue what he was going to say but she did the right thing by accepting his idea and building on it using “Yes, And.” If our Captain (Actor 2) had said

"Mom, what are you talking about, we’re eating corn dogs at the county fair”

our scene is dead in the water because the two actors are not on the same page. That is why “Yes, And” is so crucial to collaborating on stage.

By uttering the word “Yes” we tell our brain to accept an idea. When we say the word “And” we've told our brain to add something. Accepting an idea and then adding to it is the winning formula for idea generation and is why “Yes, And” is so powerful. Imagine if we all used this concept in the business world.