While trolling my news feed I came across Fast Company’s profile on Amy Poehler for Most Create People in Business of 2015. Of course I clicked on it, she’s my hero. While I was expecting a highlight on everything she’s done in front of the camera, I was surprised to learn how successful she’s been behind the scenes. Including creating a 5 million strong army of “smarties” in connection with “Amy’s Smart Girls.” I was surprised, although I shouldn’t have been, that she pulled from her improv past to ensure one of the most creative environments for her staff:
“There’s a thing in improv called the “ ‘Yes, and . . .’ rule,” adds Poehler’s Parks cast mate Aubrey Plaza. “It means that if you’re in a scene with someone and they set up a premise, you have to say ‘yes’ and go along with it. If your partner says, ‘You’re a doctor and I’m your patient,’ you can’t say, ‘No, I’m not, I’m a fireman.’ Because then the scene is over.
Amy has let the ‘Yes, and’ rule bleed into her daily life. She never shuts you down. She always listens and wants to hear what you have to say. But at the same time, she knows what she wants.And you always feel very safe having her in charge, because there’s just this underlying sense that she can steer you in the right direction.”
Quoted from Aubrey Plaza in the Fast Company article ‘AMY POEHLER IS REALLY MAKING HERSELF UNCOMFORTABLE’ written by Benjamin Svetkey,
I think it’s safe to say people love to hear themselves talk, so much so that they frequently shoot down others ideas without laying the possible ground work where that idea could have flourished.
While you may not always agree with your coworkers suggestions you never know who is going to surprise you with a home run. Rather than shutting people down try the approach of “yes I like that idea, and we could… ” adding more to their thought could help you think outside the box. It could also strengthen their idea. A simple “Yes, I see where you’re going, what else were you thinking” – it doesn’t tie you to loving the idea, but it gives them a further chance to explain and develop what they are thinking.
In the past I’ve found it’s helpful to have a manager, or to be the manager, who follows this rule. It allows coworkers to develop their idea, and take it on different paths. It’s open collaboration – rather than bring negativity to the table, you’re keeping the space safe and open for suggestions.
Next time you’re in a position where a coworker brings you an idea, even if you don’t like it, try going with it. By hearing the person out in a positive way you may get to a place neither of you had originally expected – who knows the original idea Edison brought to the table that eventually led to the telephone. Imagine if someone had said no without hearing him out.