Sometimes you “learn” something you’ve always known and that’s really a blessing.
You have been operating under a premise or a practice, but later in life, at the right time and in the right setting, someone gives a name to that practice and you get to see it anew. You are given the chance to use your own tools in new ways.
That’s what we’ll help you do.
My mother was the best at it and to this day, I’m eternally grateful I wasn’t abandoned on a corner somewhere because when I look back on my antics as a curious if not precocious child, I would have left me behind, that’s for sure.
My mom was the best at an improv practice loosely referred to as “yes, and?” She loved to play and she never shut things down. I heard my fair share of “because I say so” of course, but typically, when my curiosity or declamations got the best of me, she’d roll with it and that’s how I learned.
I once took all my stuffed animals and socks (apparently the two most important things in my world) and bagged them in food storage bags (an entire box full) and laid them neatly on the kitchen table. I was a latch-key kid, home only 30 minutes before her. That day was fire safety day at school and after exploring my home for known dangers (we clearly had far too many extension cords in use), I determined I needed a fire plan.
When she came in the door, beleaguered from a very long day, she didn’t ask me to clean up the table full of plastic-suffocating teddy bears.
Instead, she asked “What’s this?”
I replied, “My fire plan. When the house burns, see, we can each grab a few bags of my things, then all the animals will be saved. And my socks.”
I was so proud, I really had thought it through.
Now, here’s my mom’s “yes, and…” She didn’ t say no. She said instead, “What about my things? What about our socks, your dad’s and mine?” She jumped right into the plan. As a result, I suddenly had to strategize further than the immediate moment.
And right back to her: “I ran out of bags.”
My mom then suggested we would find a better way to save my things and frankly, the house wouldn’t burn (and as long as I lived there, it never did) and we went on with dinner.
This concept–of opening up the possibility–is one we could use more of in our workspaces. Often, great ideas are shut down with “we don’t/can’t/won’t do it that way” or the age-old (ha) notion of tradition.
If instead, we opened ourselves to a sense of “yes, and?” maybe brainstorms and work meetings, project reports and problem solving would work better.
The next time someone says “I was thinking we could consolidate this process by putting these two teams together,” resist the temptation to say “That’s a lot of work; where will they work, who will manage them, we don’t have the time and that’s out of my pay grade.”
Instead, try answering “Yes! And we could move Susie Q. into that area to help staff the project. What else?”
Life is an improv event… and it always goes better when you open up to your fellow actors.
You’ve been doing it all along; your personal life often allows you to explore possibilities and “bite” when baited. Now, deploy this strategy in your work life.
Try “yes, and?” today each time you’re tempted to say “we can’t.”
We bet you can.