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A foundational improv game that unlocks collaborative creativity.
In Improv Theatre, the game “Yes, And” is a foundational exercise to foster creativity, cooperation, adaptability, and a positive mindset. The rules are simple: every actor in the scene must build on whatever the previous actor says, starting with “Yes, And.” While this game quickly descends into absurdity, it teaches a powerful lesson: running with your scene partners’ contributions is far more helpful than rejecting them (both for you and for them). This is a crucial lesson for improvisers, who must build an unscripted scene from nothing in front of an audience. They are tasked with establishing characters, conflict, and a resolution on the spot, and they must trust each other to build this scene together.
I know these lessons well because I grew up doing improv. My mother ran an after-school improv theatre program for middle and high school students based on the teaching of Viola Spolin. The friendships I forged and the lessons I’ve learned there have lasted a lifetime. Here are a few lessons “Yes, And” taught that are generally applicable to life:
It cultivates creativity under constraints. If you are forced to approach a situation with “Yes, And,” you can’t start with “No, But.” It forces you to find creative ways to incorporate existing ideas. It helps put you in a problem-solving and decision-making mindset, especially under tight deadlines and constraints.
It honors your collaborators. “Yes, And” emphasizes cooperation. Before anything meaningful comes out of your mouth, you start with, “Yes, I hear you, and I want to add my idea to yours as well.” You can’t shoot down an idea you are running with. That builds trust with your collaborators. At the same time, it allows you to contribute and even change the course of your work. Collaboration is a two-way street.
It embraces serendipity. Running with an idea and building on it can be a beautiful constraint that might bring you places you hadn’t imagined otherwise. If you and your collaborators embrace a “Yes, And” mentality, it can push collaborative work into surprising new places.
It builds self-confidence. If you approach things from the perspective of “I must contribute to this positively,” it gives you a powerful foundation to stand on. It can be a powerful tool for overcoming self-doubt.
Next time you are in a meeting at work or dreaming of the future with your significant other, I recommend trying it. It’s a fun way to enhance creativity, cooperation, and adaptability.
Of course, “Yes, and” isn’t always the appropriate response. Sometimes, you might want to shut an idea down and break trust with someone. Just know that “No” and “No, but” also have that power.
Notable Links of the week
This entire NIST/KYBER-512 situation seems really odd. DJB’s 17,000-word rant on the topic is a lot to unpack. I might cover this in detail next week.
A good post on why you should avoid “the forefront of innovation” if possible.
Well, now I know why I was terrible at the roulette minigame in Super Mario 3. It was rigged!