“Yes and” exercise

“Yes and” is a phrase that improvisers use to describe the principle of accepting ideas and building on them.  This principle is important for any team that wants to develop an innovative team climate (click here for an article on innovative team climate).

Here is a quick exercise to introduce the principle of “Yes and” to your team. Let everyone pair up with a partner.  Tell them that together they have to plan a company Christmas party.  One must start by sharing an idea. The other replies with the words “Yes but”, and a reason why the afore mentioned idea cannot work, and then this participant shares another idea. The first then replies with “yes but” and so they go back and forth blocking each other’s ideas.  After a while stop them and ask them to plan the same party but this time instead of saying “yes but” they must start their sentences with “yes and”, accepting the other’s idea and building on it. Reflect on the exercise and ask the following questions.

  • How did accepting feel different from blocking?
  • How were their outcomes different?
  • How did they feel about the other person when being blocked or being accepted?
  • What are the benefits and the costs of accepting?
  • What are the benefits and costs of blocking?

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