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

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

Kelly Leonard & Tom Yorton

Improvisation is essentially about accepting an idea – the ‘Yes’ and adding to it – the ‘And’, regardless of what you may at first think of it, and regardless of who first contributed the idea. The concept behind Yes, And is that if we apply improv thinking we can generate ideas more quickly, we work as a team (or more accurately an ensemble) more effectively, we are better listeners, we weather storms more easily, and we aren’t burdened by a fear of failure.  In contrast, ‘No’, or ‘Yes, But’ thinking, are popular in the world of work because they allow one party to maintain control of an idea or conversation.

 The more we work with folks from the business world, the more we have come to understand that despite all the planning, processes, controls, and governance, business is one big act of improvisation” Kelly Leonard & Tom Yorton

Second City is the world-renowned improvisational comedy theatre and school based in Chicago. It launched the careers of celebrated comic performers such as Tina Fey and John Belushi and has fine-tuned the art of improvisation. Through this book, the authors have attempted to share some of their approach, using examples from organisations they have worked with and their own successes and failures, to help people understand the benefits of adopting an improvisational mind-set.

The seven core elements of improv are:

Some improvisation examples to try out are:

Last word response – a listening exercise

Pair people up and instruct them to have a conversation about anything at all, business-related or not. The only catch is that participants must begin whatever they say with the last word spoken by their partner.

Exposure – getting rid of fear through focus

Divide your group into two lines, facing each other, ten feet apart. Ask the group to just look at each other. Give this some time, and once there is notable fidgeting and discomfort, have them look somewhere else in the room, to complete a counting task (eg bricks, ceiling tiles). The team will note that when given a clear focus/task, any discomfort they felt will quickly disappear, which shows them that when they are feeling uncomfortable in any environment, having a clear focus on a task will help them through.

Thank you statues – enhance ability to voice ideas without fear of judgement

Get the group into a large circle. Ask for a volunteer to go first, and they then step into the circle to strike any sort of pose. Once he or she is set, another participant steps into the middle, taps the person on the shoulder so that they know to move back to the circle, and the second participant then assumes their own pose. The first person will say ‘thank you’ and take their place back in the circle. After a couple of rounds, the group picks up the tempo so that things move more quickly. Eventually, they stop tapping the person out and just go one-by-one to the middle and take a pose that builds on those of others already there, ultimately creating a statue. When two people are left in the circle, ask them to name the statue that has been created.

Wikipedia and Linux, the open-source operating system, are two brilliant real world examples of Yes, And thinking – where people have built on what has gone before. While the book alone may not fully equip you to establish an actively listening effective ensemble it does at the very least provide enough ideas to get the ball rolling. The fun will surely follow.

** About the authors Kelly Leonard is executive vice president of The Second City. He has overseen productions with many notable performers including Steve Carell, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Leonard co-founded Second City Theatricals, and has collaborated with organisations like The Chicago Tribune, Norwegian Cruise Line and Lyric Opera Chicago.

Tom Yorton uses improvisation to help business professionals in his role as CEO of Second City Works. Tom formerly worked in senior advertising and marketing roles at Ogilvy & Mather, Sears and 3Com. Yorton writes and speaks widely on his undying belief in the power of improvisation and humour to improve individual performance and transform organisations.

** Reviews “Accepting and building on what others have initiated, Yes, And is the best teamwork advice for the stage or the boardroom.” Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter

About Impact Executives Ltd Impact Executives is a leading interim management provider to organisations of every size in the UK and globally. Originally formed as a specialist practice within PA Consulting Group, over the past 25 years Impact Executives has helped over 2000 companies, including more than two-thirds of the FTSE 250 – find the very best executive interim management talent.

Clients choose to work in partnership with Impact Executives because of our proven ability to offer client’s immediate solutions to improve their organisation’s performance through identifying skills-gaps, business process reengineering (BPR), turnaround, restructure and growth.

With offices covering the UK, the Nordics, Europe, Asia Pacific and North America, Impact Executives is part of the global recruitment specialist Harvey Nash Group plc. Over the past 20 years we have given clients and interim managers the confidence that we have the resources, expertise and focus to deliver results – fast.

For further information on Impact Executives, please contact Steffany Young, Impact Executives, Tel: 0044 20 7314 2011 Email: steffany.young@impactexecutives.com

Book Details

Author: Kelly Leonard & Tom Yorton

ISBN: 978-0062248541