Yes, AND…


You are trying to come up with lots of ideas to solve a really thorny issue at work (or at home). You’re not worried about evaluation of the ideas at this point, you just want to come up with as many ideas as possible. You have this idea in your head…it’s a little crazy, but you go ahead and share it anyway….you’re idea is met with an emphatic…”yes, BUT…”

How does that feel? Does it take all the air and creativity out of the room? We’ve all been there. You have an idea that you’re excited to share and you are met with all the reasons it won’t work. In this post, I want to introduce you to a mindset of “yes, AND…” rather than saying “yes, BUT…”. In addition, I’ve met some people who LOVE to practice this technique. I’ll show you where you can find these people, so you can practice and become a master of the “yes, AND”

What is “Yes, AND…”?

It’s simple really…when you are trying to ideate solutions, or just build off of others ideas, you try and say “Yes, AND…” in response to everything that is said. This is an old comedy improve trick.

Here is an example. We are trying to ideate around, how might we make patients being discharged from Children’s hospital feel like movie stars? You say “kids walk down a red carpet to get to exit the hospital.” Then I say, “yes, AND…we have a nurse ask ‘who are you wearing?'”. You say, “Yes, AND three photographers take their pictures.” And so on and so on…This technique helps foster robust ideation. Below I have listed IDEO’s rules for brainstorming and BOLDED the rules that this technique supports. (Note: I first had just listed out the rules that applied, but after thinking about it decided to list all the rules. In fact, I suspect a future post will be coming about this list. It is extremely helpful to creating a posture of rapid and radical ideation.)

  1. Defer judgement
  2. Encourage wild ideas
  3. Build on the ideas of others
  4. Stay focused on topic
  5. One conversation at a time
  6. Be visual
  7. Go for quantity

Who loves “Yes, AND…”?

Ok, so your boss isn’t pleased with your desire to do some more “Yes, ANDs…” Your coworkers look at you like you have two heads. How do you practice? With children! They love to play “yes, AND…” Just this week, I have had a running session of “yes, AND” with my six year old daughter. It all started on our way to church. There has been an enormous Lifetime Fitness going up beside our church. We drove past the pool and here’s how the conversation went…

Daughter: I wish we were going to the pool (maybe instead of church!?!)

Me: What if we held church in the pool?

Daughter: Yes, and, the nursery is in the kiddy pool

Me: Yes, and the pastor would sit in the lifeguard stand…(arrive at church, convo pauses)

Later in the day

Daughter: Daddy, what if your work was a pool?

Me: Yes, and the bosses have big corners of the pools instead of offices

Daughter: Yes, and there are islands in the pool where you have your computers

Me: Yes, and you take a lazy river to meetings

Daughter: What if your work was a zoo?

Me: Yes, and each department works in cages and people could come by and feed us lunch

Daughter: Yes, and the bosses are the zoo keepers! (giggles uncontrollably)

This is so much fun…she loves it, I love it AND I am working on my creative muscles AND becoming a better design thinker at the same time. Think about how different this conversation would have gone if I would have responded to her first statement with, “yes, BUT”…the “yes, AND…” allowed us to encourage wild ideas. See #2 on IDEO’s rules for brainstorming.

So to further work out your creative muscles, spend a day, or an hour responding to everything with “yes, AND…” Also, spend some time with your son, niece, goddaughter, etc. playing “yes, AND.” Report back here to let us know how it goes. I promise you will have a great time.



6 thoughts on “Yes, AND…

    • Agreed Stephen. I’ve heard it called corporate antibodies…the antibodies identify what it thinks is a disease and immediately attacks it! Keep working on the corporate immune system…eventually you will wear it down.

  1. Lance,

    Love this! Was just thinking about what a difference this would have made in a ministry meeting, dreaming about how we can better equip birth families, rather than viewing it as the story. Working this into our lives starting today! Thanks for the reminder to dream!

    • Glad you enjoyed it Catie! It’s good to even say, “hey, let’s think about some wild ideas right now” to let others know you want to take some time to explore things that seem like dreams.

  2. Pingback: I like, I wish, what if | Build To Think

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