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Yes, And: How Improvisation Reverses 'No, But' Thinking and Improves Creativity and Collaboration

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    J. S. Anderson

Key perspectives

  • Improv principles like "yes, and" and co-creating can be applied to business situations like brainstorming, negotiating, and managing teams. Saying "yes" means actively listening and considering ideas before responding. "And" means building on others' ideas.

  • Fail often and fast to iterate and improve. Improv performers are comfortable with failure on stage. Businesses should create a safe space for experimentation and rapid prototyping. View failures as learnings.

  • Focus outward, not inward. Improv is about the collective creation. Don't worry about how you look or sound. Give attention and energy to the task and your teammates.

  • Laughter reduces fear. Create a fun, playful environment where people aren't afraid to fail. Use humor to debrief and learn from mistakes.

  • Involve the audience. Co-create with customers early on through feedback and ideas. The "gap principle" says people naturally want to complete unfinished thoughts or projects.

  • Attention leads to attitude change leads to behavior change. Engage people first, then minds and actions will follow.


When someone presents an idea, respond with "yes, and" instead of "no, but." This shows that you are open to the idea and willing to build on it, rather than just rejecting it outright.

When you confront failure, are you embracing it quickly and often, iterating and improving?

When you're engaged in a team task or a collaborative effort, are you focusing outwardly to collectively create and support your teammates, rather than worrying about your own appearance or sound?

When you are confronted with a fear of failure or high-stress situations, are you cultivating a fun, playful environment and utilizing humor to reduce fear, creating opportunities for learning from mistakes?

When you are initiating a new project or concept, are you involving your audience and co-creating with customers early on, utilizing the "gap principle" by encouraging them to lend their thoughts and ideas to complete unfinished projects?

When you are seeking to influence change, are you first engaging attention before reshaping attitudes, and hence, behaviors?