Say Yes, And!

A friend and mentor of mine, Avish Parashar has a new book out named Say Yes, And! Avish has a ton of great advice to give you, and I highly recommend the book. Go forth and pick it up from Amazon.

Still here? Okay, let me tell you why I think this is a great book.

Improv Comedy

Avish’s philosophy has it’s roots in improv comedy. Improv comedy imparts a great deal of skills that can be useful in the work world:

  • Creative Thinking
  • Effective Collaboration
  • Public Speaking

One of the core concepts of improv comedy is the offer.  An offer is an attempt to create or develop a scene it is vital to creative thinking and collaboration.  For example a group of improv players get the location of a bathroom from the audience. Player 1 steps out, mimes slapping a wet mop down on the floor, and announces in a terrible Scottish accent that “Accckkk the lavatory has been invaded by the filth again!”

That’s an offer, he’s created a reality: he is a Scottish janitor in a filthy bathroom and it’s his job to clean it up.

Now Player 2 has the ability to do three things:

  • Block
  • Accept
  • Build

Blocking is bad.

Player 2 steps out and says, “What do you mean filth, this bathroom is a monument to cleanliness”.

See what he did there? He completely invalidated what Player 1 said. It completely derails the scene, the two of them have to start building from scratch. It doesn’t bode well for the scene.

Accepting is better

Player 2 steps out and says, “Well if you cleaned them more often, they would’t get this bad.”

This is better, he accepted the reality that player 1 offered and didn’t just bring the scene to a halt. The two of them can go on from there. But Player 2 didn’t make it any better. Nothing was added.

Building is best

Player 2 steps out and says, “Yes, and I need to get home fast today. I noticed that there is an emergency fire hose in the hallway. I bet it would blast the grime away.”

That is the beginning of a scene where something happens. Something dumb and disastrous, but that’s comedy.

Yes, And! is the name of an exercise that teaches you to build instead of blocking or merely accepting. Basically someone says something and you have to start your response with “Yes and.” It forces you to accept and add, which is building.

Back to work

How many times have you been brainstorming trying to solve issues or come up with something new and confronted by people blocking you:

  • Offer: Let’s build a full featured version of PhotoShop for tablets!
  • Block: But even the most powerful tablets are still not powerful enough to run desktop PhotoShop.
  • Accept: Okay, what would that look like?
  • Build: Yes, and we could use the camera to pull photos directly into the app, something that doesn’t make sense on desktops.

One response stymies progress, one doesn’t help it, and the last advances it.  Our goal should be to get to a place where the building response is our first instinct.  It doesn’t make the statement put forth in the block any less true, but most of the facts that get put forth to block ideas are obstacles to overcome, not reasons to prematurely abandon ideas. (PhotoShop Touch is doing very well thank you. )

Say Yes, And! by Avish Parashar is a book that will give you the tools and training to get yourself to think of building instead of just accepting or even blocking in the business world. Avish is a great teacher, and you can get a lot out of it.  Go get it!

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