Have you ever put forward an idea and it was met with a muted response – or worse, silence?
Or perhaps you had a great idea that was dying to come out but you were just too afraid you would get a negative reaction from your colleagues? These moments can be really demoralising.
Without creativity we can’t move forward – as people, in teams or in an organisation. We need to give people a safe platform where they feel they can speak up without fear. When people feel unable to share their best ideas, the risk is stagnation. You're also potentially losing out on some innovative, unusual ways of solving problems.
So, how do we create a positive environment in which people feel they can put forward ideas without fear of failure or being judged?
There is a simple technique that can help to change the way we think. By using the phrase ‘Yes, and ...’ in our interactions with others, we can encourage positive thinking in ourselves and those we work with. Even if we don’t like what’s being suggested, we can make people feel valued by saying ‘Yes, and let’s see if we can build on that idea.’ This will help ideas to flow and give positive reinforcement.
The ‘Yes’ part shows that you have accepted that person’s idea. Whether you like the idea or not is irrelevant. Once you have accepted it, you have shown the person that you are willing to consider it. The ‘and ...’ part then shows that you are willing to build on the idea and encourages others to do the same.
This premise is one of the first rules of improv acting. By responding to a prompt with ‘Yes, and ...’ then the way is open for your improv partner to carry on the dialogue (hopefully in an amusing way, in the case of comedy!). The idea behind ‘Yes, and ...’ is that no matter what scene you enter into, you need to accept it and can really only modify the scene by adding to it.
‘Yes, and …’ is a good philosophy to use in everyday life to make someone feel affirmed and valued.
Imagine how deflated you would feel if every time you said to your spouse/partner/friend, “Let’s go to the movies tonight,” and they said, “Yes, but my favourite movie is on TV.” Even though they’ve answered in the affirmative, they’re still telling you that they don’t want to go. However, if they answered with, ‘Yes, and we can record that movie to watch later!” Think how much better you’d both feel.
By using ‘Yes, and ...’ you’re taking what your team or colleague has created and adding something to it, thereby creating new ideas and opportunities. You’re building bridges, instead of obstacles.
In this way:
Just like in improv acting, not every idea will be a good one. You can take the negative approach, stop the flow, destroy the momentum, and start again. Or you can accept the idea, make it your own, and build it up to something greater.
Imagine the difference this one simple change in attitude can make on having a positive work environment. ‘Yes, and ...’ can create happy accidents. And many of the world’s greatest discoveries have been made by accident!