Yesterday I had the great fortune to sit in on one of Google’s internal Design Thinking workshops where the participants were reminded of the incredible power of saying “yes, and…” as opposed to “no, but…”
It goes a little like this: Highly trained, intelligent creatures we are, we often instinctively go into “let me point out the flaws in your idea”–mode when presented with an idea. What sadly happens in this way is that we shut down ideas instead of building on them and making them bigger, bolder and better. We say “No, but…” — which might feel good at the moment (as it demonstrates our intellectual capacity) and sadly does little to the idea and person presenting said idea.
Instead train yourself to use “Yes, and…” as your instinctive answer. “Yes, and…” acknowledges the idea and builds on it — enabling and fostering an environment teeming with creativity.
Try it out for yourself: Have someone come up with an idea or suggestion, say for example an idea for a summer team outing. Answer with “No, but…”. Let the other person come up with another plan and repeat the “No, but…” rebuttal. Repeat this a few more times and see how frustrating the process becomes. Now switch it around and respond with “Yes, and…” to the same idea — building on the notion you heard and let the other person react to it, upon you respond again with “Yes, and…” You will quickly sense how empowering, creative and powerful this process is.
“Yes, and…” is one of the most powerful tools in your portfolio to foster creativity and breakthrough ideas in your team and environment.