Raise your hand if you’ve heard the phrase “Yes, and…”

This principle from the world of improv is referenced enough in popular culture that when I mention it in workshops, typically at least half the room raises their hand.

But what does it really mean?

This tool may be the best known improv tool, but it’s also the most misinterpreted.

Contrary to popular belief, “Yes, and…” does not mean to literally say “yes, and” to every offer you’re presented with.

Here’s an example from the improv stage:

Imagine Player A says, “I’m robbing this bank, detective, and don’t you dare follow me out that window!”

If Player B interprets “Yes, and..” literally, they might say, “Yes, I’ll stay right here and let you escape, thief!”

Aaaand there’s the end of the scene.

That’s one reason why I prefer to call this tool, “Accept and build.”

What Player B really needs to do is accept the reality that they have been endowed as a detective, catching Player A in the act of robbing a bank, and build on that reality.

Player B’s logical move? Chase the thief out the window!

Even though Player B has explicitly told him not to. (Because although the character of the bank robber might not want the detective to chase him, in fact, Player A really does want Player B to do just that!)

So what does this have to do with teams, leaders, and company culture?

“Accept and build” means to acknowledge the reality you’ve been presented with, and then build on that reality by offering a new idea or perspective.

It also means to acknowledge and build on other people’s ideaseven if you disagree with them, because when we accept and acknowledge their ideas, they feel validated, and are more likely to continue to contribute ideas in the future.

Whether you call it “Yes, and” or “Accept and build,” when you bring this kind of energy and attitude to your team, it’s contagious, and contributes to cultivating the kind of team culture that people want to be a part of.

This is just one of the reasons improv teams are known as some of the highest performing teams in the world.

Stay tuned for more lessons you can learn from improv teams in coming missives!

I love using play to help people-first teams and organizations strengthen connection, communication, collaboration, clarity, and creativity. If you or your team could use help increasing your impact, and getting there faster and more joyfully…

click here to reach me via my contact form and my assistant, Trish, will help schedule a time for us to have a chat, so I can learn more about you/your team.


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