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Solution to Go #2: Practice "Yes, And. . ." to Promote Creativity, Collaboration & Innovation


Ever find yourself in a meeting as someone speaks thinking, "No, that's a bad idea. . ."?

What do you say next?  What kind of energy do you put out into the room?

Do you just check out?  Does your next comment sound something like, "Well, the problem with that is. . .," or "Yes I see what you mean, but. . ."?

"But."  There it is.  That word.

You know what happens when you use that word?  No matter how artfully or diplomatically you phrase your objection, the person you're talking to will feel contradicted, even shut down.  And the other people in the meeting will pick up that emotional energy and will also feel less open or comfortable to speak, because now the room has a mini-conflict to manage. 

You can't escape it:  these are the unconscious group dynamics let loose by that sneaky little word, "but."  As a result, very subtly, the psychology of the group has switched to a yellow light alert, where the group wants to avoid any escalating conflict.  Unfortunately, yellow light alerts are the enemy of creativity and innovation, because creativity and innovation require an escalating group psychology of play, where people feel safe to be spontaneous and unguarded.

Skilled leaders and facilitators understand the power of "Yes, and. . ." over "Yes, but. . ."  The difference is a mindset, where you look for what's right and what's useful in an idea, rather than what's lacking or maybe off the mark in your opinion.  With "Yes, and. . .," when you take the kernel of an idea and run with it, the person who originally spoke feels valued and validated, and by reacting to what you like about an idea and embellishing it or adding to it, everyone else in the room feels safe to jump in and do the same.  The result?  A virtuous cycle of creativity that can take off, with other people picking up an idea and adding to it, producing something no one would have thought of on their own.

Actors and comedians who train to perform improvisational work actually practice to develop the "Yes, and. . ." mindset so they can create entertainment experiences that take off and catch lightning in a bottle.  They practice saying "Yes, and. . ." back and forth to each other as they develop ideas and characters so they as performers can become spontaneous and fully creative when they go up under the lights without a script or a road map for what comes next. 

As a leader who runs meetings and sets a tone for your organization, or even just as a participant in meetings, you can study and learn from these techniques. You can do your own mental rehearsal to learn "Yes, and. . ." to prepare yourself, even if you have no one to practice with you.  If you're interested in learning more, check out links like this one and this one.  Feel free to continue your own research on "Yes, and. . ."  to support your skill development.

I guarantee you, if you develop and implement a consistent "Yes, and. . ." mindset, you'll become a catalyst that fosters creativity, collaboration and innovation wherever you go.

Give it a try!