The “Yes, and” of collaboration

Feb 12 2016

Consider two words: “Yes,” and “and.”

They are just simple words. Yet “yes, and” are two words that hold an immense amount of power. With this phrase, you can begin to create something with another person and chase an idea to the end it deserves. “Yes, and” implies cooperation and support, and it aids in building relationships and successful enterprises.

“Yes, and” finds its roots in improvisational comedy.

As a member of the Chapel Hill Players comedy team on campus, this mantra has become a part of my everyday life. Though I got through the audition process by saying whatever funny thing came to my head, I soon learned that there was a lot more science to the art form than I had anticipated.

Improvisation is built on listening closely to your partner and responding to exactly what they said. This encourages the players to stay on task and allows for building blocks to create a scene that’s both relatable and unique.

It’s awfully fun, and it’s incredibly helpful. You learn how to trust others with your brain babies. You learn how to trust others to save you from embarrassment. You learn to trust your weird instincts are correct.

I’ve learned that when we say “Yes, and,” we go on trips with pirates, have space parties, and do our best impressions of Robert De Niro.

When saying “no,” we selfishly advance our own ideas, and we often come to a standstill.

In order to begin a scene, both improvisers need to be on the same page. This includes making a strong initiation and establishing a relationship between the individuals. When someone presents an idea/initiation, the second improviser’s job is to say “Yes, and.”

The “yes” functions as an acceptance of the reality offered by our partners. When saying “yes,” we are agreeing to the basic set-up of the situation and ensuring we are along for the ride. The “and” means the second person adds more to what has been established. The narrative continues, with additional swagger offered by the second player.

Hopefully, hilarity ensues.

“What if we made Skechers shoes that could help you fly?”

“YES, AND what if those Skechers had little parachutes in case the engines failed?”

Though for most start-ups, the goal isn’t belly laughter, it’s easy to see the benefits of this supportive mentality. In brainstorming at Reese News Lab, we can take the seed of an idea and nurture it into something fruitful. If we instinctually say “no” to wilder ideas, we are closing ourselves off to a world of possibility.

These past few weeks my team, which also includes Edwina Koch, Elliot Krause and Kasia Jordan, has been learning how to form a comfortable work environment. We come from a variety of majors and interests and have struggled with individual notions of what is “necessary” for our client.

How can we incorporate each of our opinions? Rather than letting one person rule the room, how can we play to each of our strengths?

You guessed it: with “Yes, and.” We found that each time we responded negatively to an idea that surfaced during conversation, we fostered an argumentative dynamic. Our disagreement would halt the process completely, which would only force us to begin again.

So we grow more patient each day. We take turns pitching our solutions, and we take time to seriously consider something before it’s labeled undesirable. We say “Yes, and” to the more outlandish inclinations before we abandon a thought.

With this, we are more confident to present our findings to this semester’s client. We each have talking points that fit our personalities, and we have ideas that are ready to receive concrete feedback.

A French major, biomechanical engineering major, communication studies major, and a public relations major walk into a bar. What comes out?

In our case, ideas for a focused music approach and strategy for the North Carolina area, a spotlight on hardcore UNC/Duke sports fans, and a platform for digestible information for local politics.

Yes, and there’s more to come.


2 comments on “The “Yes, and” of collaboration

  1. Edwina says:

    Snaps and claps all around!

  2. Gaby says:

    oh la laaaaaaaaaaaaa

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