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Yes, And!

Last week I shared with you some of the wisdom that exists about change… The inevitability of it, and the distinction between technical and adaptive challenges.


This week’s wisdom about change comes from the performing arts.


During an improvised performance of theatre, dance, or music, there is often one important rule: “Yes! And…”. For improvisation to work between performers, there must be an unconditional acceptance of the moment, and then an affirming response.


For instance, if one performer says “Look at that big cloud! A storm must be coming”, the second performer can’t say “I don’t see a cloud” or “That’s not a cloud, it’s a blimp!”. The scene could quickly become an argument or back and forth about what is going on in the imaginary sky. Instead, to keep the scene moving, the second performer accepts what their counterpart has said, and then responds affirmatively, “Wow! I’m scared of storms!” or “Yikes! Should we go inside?”.


“Yes! And…” keeps the creativity going and the energy of the scene moving forward. There is a following and leading between performers that creates a cohesive experience for the audience. When performers are really in sync, it can be hard to believe that the performance was improvised at all.


Alternatives to “Yes! And…” are:

“Yes, but…”

“No, and...”

“No, but…”.


Not only is “Yes! And…” a guideline for improvisers, it can be embodied by individuals and communities.


Are you unconditionally accepting of yourself and the challenges life throws at you? Or do you deny your experience and get frustrated?


Can you imagine what a “Yes! And…” attitude could do for you? For your community? I’m curious to find out!