The Importance of “Yes, And…” for Collaboration

We all know what improv is. It’s a form of acting where actors create scenes and characters on the spot, generally inspired by one word or a simple phrase.

But how does improv relate to what you do every day at work? And what lessons can you learn from improv as a government employee?

One of the more interactive sessions for today included John Windmueller, the Organizational Training Manager of Improv@Work, a part of Washington Improv Theater (WIT). Armed with a PhD in Conflict Resolution and a love of comedy, John visits offices and companies to instill crucial soft skills that employees need to create a successful work environment through Improv exercises.

One of the most important exercises that John led the NextGen attendees through was the“Yes, and…” concept. The example he gave was one person says “It’s a beautiful day in Hawaii” and the second person responds, “Yes, and it’s beautiful and a wonderful day to get married”. Here, the first person says a statement, and the second person listens, acknowledges, and then builds upon that idea.

According to many social scientists, people are inclined to say “No” first. People say no out of fear, out of a desire for control, and even for power (and sometimes, just because it is the better decision). In the “Yes, and…” situation, if the second person said “No, we’re not in Hawaii,” it would halt the conversation.

But uttering the words “yes, and …” can actually help you immensely. When you say this phrase, it means that you’re starting from a place of open-mindedness while building on the ideas of others. “Yes, and …” does not mean that you need to put your own ideas on hold or blindly follow others, but it does allow you to recognized the value in what others have to say.

John closed with the concept of “bring a brick, not a cathedral.” This means come ready to collaborate, not dictate. By saying “Yes, and…” those bricks may be built into something beautiful by you and your teammates — together.

From July 20-21 we will be blogging from GovLoop and YGL’s Next Generation of Government Training Summit. Following along @NextGenGov and read more blog posts here.

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Hanna Cooper

That’s great, Catherine – ‘yes and’ is a collaboration and communication tool! Once you start using it as a model, it’s interesting to note how often we typically are in “yes, but” mode! How great you brought improv to your Summit!