Be Foolish, Say "Yes!"

By Brian Remer

(Reprinted from April 2012 issue of Firefly News Flash)

If you're like most of us, your typical reaction to a crazy idea is skepticism, disbelief, or at least an attempt to point out its flaws. We are trained to be critical, to look for the holes in an idea, and to make something better by pointing out how it can be improved. Brought up in a society that values this approach it seems foolish to say "Yes" more often. After all, none of us ever gets everything we want. Saying "Yes" too much could invite chaos!

We are so accustomed to saying "Yes, but…" that it's difficult to do otherwise. Fortunately, there is a quick, fun activity from the world of improvisational theater to give us practice. Try this activity with a colleague or among partners in one of your teams then note the creative change in the atmosphere!

Yes, But…

Round 1:

Working with a partner, your objective is to plan a celebration for your team. Designate who will be Person A and who will be Person B.

Person A begins my making an initial suggestion or idea for the celebratory event, "For the celebrations we could…"

Person B replies beginning with "Yes, but…" filling in with a reason not to do the suggested idea.

Person A makes another suggestion. Person B responds again with "Yes, but…"

Repeat this sequence a few times. What sort of tone results? How enthusiastic do you and your partner feel? Have you planned a fun celebration that you would be excited to attend?

Yes, And…

Round 2:

In Round 2, Person A begins as before with a new idea for the celebration.

Person B replies with, "Yes, and we could also…" saying something that builds upon the previous idea.

Person A makes another suggestion. Person B responds again with "Yes, and we could also…"

Repeat this sequence a few times. How is the resulting tone of your planning different from Round 1? How enthusiastic do you and your partner feel? How is this celebration different from what you planned in Round 1?

Wrap up by talking about the opportunities at work or at home for generating enthusiasm rather than highlighting deficiencies. When it would be helpful to say "Yes and…" more often? Describe what effect that might have on productivity, relationships, creativity, and motivation.