Saturday, May 2, 2009

The "Yes and" Rule

This is an improv rule with tons of value for everyday life. As I understand it, one of the fundamental rules for onstage interaction in improv is always agreeing with the premises others start. Instead of proposing a change in the plot that will take the story where you think it should go, you respond with "Yes and." You layer your ideas on top of ideas that are already there. This rule leads you down a path none of you anticipated or could have come up with alone. It also results in great humour.

We can benefit from accepting other's ideas and premises as we go through life, as well. If we're operating from a paradigm of trying to drive out our pre-determined outcome or we need to be in control, it's hard to say "Yes and." Rather, we filter the opinion or advice to fit our intended plan. Filtering, of course, means we just keep the pieces that align with our perspective. We discard the information that doesn't conform. That's unfortunate. We say "no" or "instead, how about..." instead of incorporating diverse perspectives and ideas.

As a supervisor, I typically have a notion of the recommendation I am expecting. With my desired outcome in tow, it feels unnatural to employ the "yes and" when something different is proposed. When I have employed this rule, we've discovered solutions that always surprise me and are better than anything I'd envisioned.

I'd like to propose that we establish a covenant between you and me right now. We agree to say "yes and" between us and with others when we're seeking a solution. I know it will result in some profound solutions. I think it might result in some humour, too.

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