“Yes, and…” – the other two words that can change your life

As with saying, “I do”, these two little words create a powerful bond between people. But unlike the wedding words, the simple phrase “Yes, and” does not initiate an obligation. What it sets in motion is a relationship of acceptance, which changes the chemistry between people from contracted to collaborative, cooperative and co-creative. If you believe it’s time your team reported to the conference room because they wanted to instead of because they were told to, take a vow to say, “Yes, and…”

“What if we do this?” The question is filled with optimism, potential, creative impulse.

One of the killers of spontaneity, and therefore productivity, in problem solving is the evaluation of ideas as they are being generated, “Yes, but…”

Great problem solving ability requires the freedom to brainstorm without fear of judgement. And nothing betrays judgement as simply as “yes, but” because the unspoken preamble is “I’ve thought about your idea and rejected it for this flaw.” Judgement is not collaborative because it chooses declaration instead of dialog. Judgement is not cooperative because it doesn’t invite new thinking to advance the inherent, if hidden, potential in any idea. And it isn’t co-creative because judgement stunts the production of additional ideas. Who wants to risk the vulnerability of sharing a wild idea without the trust of a safe environment in which to release it? To prevent being judged, it’s only natural to begin to self-edit and second guess the next new idea. “Yes, but” is where ideas die.

“Yes, or” also holds danger for problem solving groups because it causes agendas to be advanced. “Yes, or” steers thinking to an alternate option without due process. While “Yes, but” rejects an idea independently, “Yes, or” rejects one person’s idea and replaces it with that of another, usually the one saying it.

Evaluation will have its due in a disciplined creative problem solving process. There will be time to discuss each idea, to develop its strengths, overcome its weaknesses and estimate its ultimate potential to meet situation criteria and deliver on goals. But that process has no place in the brainstorming session and necessarily follows exhaustive idea generation.

“Yes, and” unites members beneath an idea that is now of the group. “Yes, and…” doesn’t presume agreement (which would also be judge-y). But it does promote collaboration. “Yes, and” signifies understanding of an idea’s essence and adds to the vision. The dynamic relaxes, the group becomes safer and each new contribution builds momentum for the next. This cooperative behavior leads to co-creation of a huge volume of ideas spanning the continuum of possibility – the mark of a great brainstorming session.

Wild ideas may not ultimately be practical or productive, but they have a place at the creative problem solving table because they spark new thinking and make additional ideas possible, ones which have great potential to change challenges to triumphs. Every wild idea may be rejected in the end but its contribution to the process is pushing the boundaries of comfort further out. The new space gained in this stretch is where innovation is found.

Whether as individuals, organizations, industries or societies our ability to adapt and thrive in a dynamic, often turbulent environment depends on transformation that is imaginative, influential and important. What the world needs now is more creativity. So change your life – commit to creative problem solving with “Yes, and…”

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