This group, the board of the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS), kicked off their annual planning retreat with some improvisational exercises. One of the basic rules of improvisation is that you cannot negate anyone’s suggestion. You must further it. You must say, “Yes, and . . . ” We did a very powerful exercise illustrating this. The question before the group was how do we make our organization better? But the next person in the circle says, “No, that will never work. But here is my idea . . . ” Then the next person says, “No, we tried that before and it didn’t work, but here’s my idea.” The next person says, “That’s stupid, but here’s my idea.” After a while, it’s like the energy was being sucked from the group. It was dismal. Then, we changed the exercise. After each idea, the next person had to say, “Yes, and . . . ” After a few minutes, the ideas were free flowing and people built off of the past idea. There were many ideas that came up that had never been thought about before. The group was energized and excited about all of these tremendous possibilities. This simple exercise set a positive tone for the retreat and created an atmosphere of creativity and innovation.
I recently did a similar exercise at Penn State to a group of technical folks at the PACE Conference (Partnership for Achieving Construction Excellence, a consortium of academics, students, and industry folks. Dan Kerr was in attendance and wrote an interesting post about Integrated Project Delivery and a new breed of engineer. Check it out!
We must learn to embrace new thinking and new approaches or we will fall behind. What is your company doing to promote innovation and creative thinking? Google demands that for 10%of your day, you don’t do any work. You are to use that time to recharge, to sit and think, to reflect. It is vital for your well being and the well being of your company. But we simply don’t do that in most companies in the US. We put our head down and work, work, work. Start today creating a “yes, and” culture in your organization. Promote innovation and creative thinking deliberately by setting aside the time to accomplish such goals. Let your people know that this thinking is encouraged and rewarded.