While I’ve never been in an improv class, I really like the idea of saying “yes, and” as a way to move the activity forward. As others have also pointed out, this can work in business and research as well.
For me, there are three lessons to take from this:
- I need to try not to immediately say no to a new idea, but at least for a little while, say yes, and see where it takes me. This is counter to a fair amount of my engineering training, which was reinforced in meetings at JPL, where any flaw could doom a mission and it was important to find them. And while this makes sense in project reviews, it doesn’t make sense in a lot of other situations, and I can get stuck in thinking in this pattern.
- Some people seem to consistently operate by saying “yes, and” in discussions – I’ll call them Yes Anders. While others often interact the other way – and I’ll call them No Butters. Maybe you’ve had this experience as well? Some people are really hard to talk to because everything turns into an argument where they are right and everything/everyone else is wrong.
- As many people have said to me, one of the great things about being in an academic research environment is that there are so many things we can do and so many people we can work with. I need to focus more on working with the Yes Anders and less with the No Butters.
I’m going to try to be conscious of this, and see how it works. And when I’m mentoring people, I’m going to try to get them to be Yes Anders too.