Becoming a “yes man”

Become a yes man

Become a yes man

Improv Principle: Yes, and…
Business Reframe: Take in what your customer \ associate says, and add a little something of your own.
Quote from a bigwig who gets it:

“Creative teams, the participants are told, now need to behave more like improv actors – story building’ instead of storytelling – so they can respond in real time to an unpredictable audience. “
Fast Company Magazine – November 2010

This is the big one – if you know anything about improv theatre, you’ve probably heard the words “Yes, and…”.

So….what does it mean?  And what the heck do you do with it?

The first part is simple – “yes, and…” means agree and add a little.

“Let’s go get a pizza”

“Yes – and let’s get a couple of beers too”.

Simple, right?

It’s not as easy as it sounds. “No” is imprinted deep in our DNA.  “No” is safety.  “No” is the smallest bit of power any of us has.  By saying no, we stop things in their tracks, we keep them in the realm of what we already know, and keep ourselves from moving forward into unknown territory.  In Hollywood, everyone, no matter where they are in the power hierarchy, can say no – the newest script reader can say “no” to any script they read, and that script will never be made into a movie.

But the real power lies in “yes” – only the top movie studio execs can say “yes” to a script, and turn it into a movie.

Saying yes can feel scary.  It moves things forward into unknown territory.  The caveman who said “no” to exploring a new cave didn’t have to worry about being eaten by something big and nasty hiding in the dark.

He also didn’t find all the cool shiny rocks that only chieftains got to wear either.

To recap – “no” is given to everyone.  “Yes” is traditionally reserved for the upper echelon.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  “Yes, and..” can be used by anyone, as long as the risk is small.  That’s why we say “add a little”.  In improv, the person who says “yes, I did get a birthday present, and it’s the entire sunken city of Atlantis” isn’t helping out the scene.  Where do you go after that?  If they add a little, then they leave room for everyone else to add a little too.  All those little additions then stack up and create something new and unexpected that no individual would have thought of on their own.

“Yes” gets you on the same page.  “And” moves you forward.

So how do you use “yes, and…” in the professional world?

It DOESN’T mean that you say “yes, and please take this check for $10,000” to someone who asks you to fund a free-range hamster preserve.

It DOESN’T mean that you give someone an insanely short deadline, then pressure them to yes-and YOU when they say it’s not possible.

It DOES mean that you listen to ideas from your team, and you resist the urge to immediately shoot it down if it seems like a bad idea.  Find the good part of the idea, and then add a little to it.  Most great ideas had their start in a bad idea.  Keep forwarding that idea a little at a time.

It DOES mean you listen to your customers and social media feedback, and say “yes” when they ask “are you going to do something about…..”  Add to that “AND we’re going to…”  Addressing a customer’s concern and making the solution better than they asked for makes for a very happy, loyal customer.

In his NY Times Bestseller“Linchpin”  Seth Godin talks about using “Thank you, and…” as a way of encouraging people to contribute and innovate.  I like the addition of “Thank you”, but just saying “yes” to someone’s idea, in a world where most things get shot down immediately, feels just like “Thank you”.

Marketing has an idea for a new campaign.  If it sounds good at first, say “yes” and add a little to the idea.  If it doesn’t sound good, find a part of the idea you do like, and add a little to that.

Adding to an idea costs nothing, and risks nothing.  “Yes, and…” before you have to put money on it.  And your “and” doesn’t have to be brilliant – add whatever seems obvious to you.  It won’t be obvious to everyone else, and all those little “obvious” additions will add up to something completely unique.

Caution: using “yes, and…” can lead to the following side effects: people feeling valued, momentum, energy, fun, better functioning teams, happier customers, enjoyment of work, motivated people, greater creativity, genius ideas, and a culture of excitement and innovation.

Please apply liberally.