It’s a great time of year, the end of August winding towards the start of September. Yes, Labour Day is early this year, but that just means that a whole bunch of things that begin with the Labour Day weekend start earlier too. I’ve heard of so many kids looking forward to going back to class on Tuesday.
Which is the way of looking at things I want to talk about. I’m not talking about my relentless optimism, which is a part of my statements, but about something I learned in an improvisation class years ago: Say yes to everything.
In a scene that is part of a game in an improvisation class, this idea ( it’s a rule really ) of saying yes to everything is to remove all obstacles that will stop participants from playing. It allows that first thing that pops into a person’s head, which is usually the best idea, to come into being, be supported and have that thought add to the fun. That fun gets added to by the next idea and then the next and in no time everyone’s rolling in the isles with laughter as things get outlandish and outrageous.
I’ve just finished reading Opposable Minds by Roger Martin, former Dean at the Rotman School at the University of Toronto and I followed it up with the Kelly Brothers of IDEO’s Creative Confidence. Both of these books are pretty cool on their own, but together they reminded me of this rule, this consideration, from my time in improv school.
Opposable Minds is at it’s core about how people can hold two seemingly conflicting ideas together in opposition in order to find a solution that is better than either idea alone. Creative Confidence is about how to boldly design and create new things by unlocking a creative energy we all had as kids but may have lost along the way. In digesting these two things, the rule of ’say yes to everything’ popped into my head again.
'Yes and . . .’, which is what saying yes to everything sounds like in action, means that you have to hold two ideas in your head at once: your idea and that of the person you’re connected with. There is no way to say 'yes and . . .' and continue the conversation with both parties feeling engaged and supported without holding onto the two ideas and moving forward. And saying 'yes and . . . ' is like one of those mind dump exercises we’ve done where a once white wall or white board is covered in many colors of post it notes or marker scribbles with a diverse set of ideas all working towards a solution to a common problem. 'Yes and . . .' opens up the frame to include more space and territory and introduce all that many more possibilities. We all know how 'yes, but' or just a flat out no makes us want to pack up our shovel and leave the sandbox. We all know how that feels. But we also know of those summer days when we were younger when everything was possible and we made so many things happen by just saying 'yes and . . .' and what if?
So as the summer ends, think about how saying “Yes and . . . “ to a colleague or co-worker who has an idea that’s really different than yours might change things. I can think of about four times in my life where saying 'yes and' has made all the difference: football, theatre school, business school, Argrestes and this blog. Where can saying yes to everything open up a whole new raft of possibilities for you this fall?
Have a great long weekend! Enjoy the endings, beginnings and all those new things you’ll find when you say yes to everything!
Coming This Fall: More of this blog, guest blogs for KM Calgary and Micaura Consulting and the first Argrestes Consulting white paper on moving from a siloed organization to collaboration and innovation!! Also there’s a whole pile of new stuff coming online at NLP Canada Training. It's worth a look over there too!
See you next week!!