Applying the "Yes, and…" principle to technical communication
I'm an improv student. The comedy bug bit me in 2015 after watching a Colin Mochrie show at the Improv Centre on Granville Island. Inspired, I completed the four core classes at the Improv Comedy Institute. Though I'm not an actress, I was able to apply my improv skills in my work as a technical communicator. The most relevant was the "Yes, and…" principle.
What is "Yes, and…"?
"Yes, and…" is a rule-of-thumb that encourages a participant to listen to and build on an idea that another participant presents. This approach keeps the lines of communication open and fosters cooperation and friendship.
For example, Alice starts the scene as a surgeon. Bob accepts this offer (the "yes") and continues the scene as a nurse who is secretly in love with the surgeon (the "and..."). They've begun a good storyline that can go in many creative directions.
Applying "Yes, and…" to work
Starting with yes shows my colleagues that I respect and value their input. It doesn't mean I'll follow them blindly. I'm still in the first stage: understanding and responding to what they're saying. I'm letting my colleagues know that they're free to share their ideas without fear of judgement. When we finish our discussion, then we can decide what's achievable.
Now it's time to build on that idea to make it better. My favourite is mind-mapping, using a diagram to organize information visually. Utilizing a mind-map allows my team and me to develop multiple ideas simultaneously. Sometimes, we can connect or combine different plans and create a brand new solution that we haven't considered before.
The "Yes, and…" principle keeps me supportive, open-minded, and flexible. I'm lucky to have been part of many teams that follow this approach.