Bob Kulhan: Improv 101 (The “Yes, and…” Principle)


The challenge that many leaders face is that
we’re analytical.  We think too quickly about why something can’t happen or how to correct
a problem, as opposed to twisting it and framing the brain that this is an unexpected opportunity;
what can I do with it?  Improvisation creates a set of learnings, a set of experiences that
allows you to fine tune and hone all of the necessary skills needed to think on your feet
and simply react and adapt.  The cornerstone of improvisation around the
world is a great two-word phrase called “yes, and.”  “Yes” means that you accept
everything that’s brought to you, regardless of who brought it to you, regardless of what
it is, regardless of what you think it means based on who gave it to you.  You accept
it at face value.  The “and” means you take this idea and build directly upon it.  Now,
build directly upon it might seem like it’s always complementary, and that’s not always
true.  You can build upon something by taking it apart.  You can build upon something by
looking at it from a different angle or the true devil’s advocacy, which is an overused
business word . . . term. So the “yes” creates openness.  Just the
definition of it: it’s affirmation; it’s positive; it’s acceptance.  That creates a style of
thinking inside people.  And then the “and” is your reaction to it.  The “and” is the
bridge to your thoughts, the bridge to your movement, the bridge to how you respond to
others, who are reacting to this event in real time as well.
Using “yes, and” as a tool, you can actually create environments that foster creativity
and foster talent, leading, of course, to innovation.  If there is a difference between
the two of those, creativity, more of the process, innovation, more of the product. 
“Yes, and” endows people with fearlessness.  There is not a mistake.  There is not a wrong
way to do something.  That’s the editing process, and something that leaders have a
challenge with is editing too quickly.  Again, we’re analytical thinkers.  We’re critical
thinkers.  We have to learn to take that critical hat
off and create an environment in which it’s okay for ideas to fail, it’s okay for people
to take chances.  Once that area is created and individuals are flourishing inside of
it, you create a second area for editing.  It’s the difference between divergent thinking
and convergent thinking.  You have to separate the two so that you can diverge your thoughts
and come up with this great collection of ideas, and then once you have this great collection
of ideas, you focus on the convergent thinking. You start separating the sand from the gold
and the good ideas from the bad ideas, and you start editing those out.
In order to create this environment in which people can come up with these ideas and diverge
their thinking, you have to cling to “yes, and” so that you’re not editing too quickly. 

100 Replies to “Bob Kulhan: Improv 101 (The “Yes, and…” Principle)”

  1. guys your channel is awssome…everybody wirth inet can learn cool new stuff about nearly everything and dont have two pay tousands od dollars….i realy apriciate that…and that had to be sayed…by the way my eng is terrible…..;)

  2. English isn't my mother tongue, I had a word in my head I wanted to use but I didn't know how to translate it. English simply doesn't have enough words for different kinds of bullshit so I had to use Latin.

  3. In an improv class, an example would be if someone was pretending to drive a taxi and asked you where you'd like a lift to. If you say "No thanks, I don't need a lift" or "No, you're just pretending to drive", that would have a much greater chance of ending the skit right there than if you say "Yes, and…", such "Yes, and come my elephant come too? I need to get him back to the zoo." etc. As for real life examples, I don't feel like coming up with one. lol

  4. You explained it allot better then the guy in this video.. I guess this is just a tool to keep in you toolbox. Its like a build a story witch never ends..

  5. There's an absolutely awesome demonstration of this principle in Improv at work in Ricy Gervais' Life's Too Short, in a scene where Liam Neeson comes in Ricky and Steve's office to polish up his comedy skills. /watch?v=lldrizLu_d8

  6. "Yes, and" a lot of political ideas have long since failed, and politicians are looking for ways to implement them again in hopes that they won't fail again, or, perhaps, they can avoid the failures that other face who continue to tread that path, or, those problems don't really seem like problems to some people so they pretend they don't exist. I try to "Yes, and" in some cases, in debates to move things forward, but, I also face a lot of bigotry.

  7. hahaha that was great. This vid also reminded me of the celebrity apprentice improv puppet show. /watch?v=iZwDfsCncZs#t=10m40s

    And yeah it works great for improv, but not sure about business. It seems like if you said "Yes, and…" and proceeded to completely disagree with what someone said, or just warp it so it resembled something else could actually be viewed as dishonest.

  8. i had 6 years of latin at school and didnt know that figure of speech and a small research didnt help much………. did you make the expression up by yourself or is my knowledge just too limited?

  9. it makes sense, what he's saying. but the thing is most people are terrible at improv, so practice is necessary before implementing in your business decisions. i think most of that practice can be made on the way to the top(if that's where you wanna be) or to your goal at least. all kinds of situations get thrown at you during this time, its the BEST time to improvise when things get sticky. i think maybe that's why experience triumphs over general knowledge.

  10. You made the most common "yes, and" mistake. You started the sentence with "yes, and", but it was a "yes, but" sentence (replace the "yes, and" with "yes, but", and it will sound better).

  11. The "Yes, and…" is basically how every Apple product is made. Take what works, give it a unique style and hype the shit out of it.

  12. Well my friends should probably be the ones to answer that, but I would hope I'm not stupid, clumsy,inept or arrogant for a start. I certainly don't vote for people I deem to have any of those qualities either. But if you mean my position in society, then I'd have to say fairly minor for the time being, only a student. I get involved in protests and other activism activities, but it tends to have a very small and limited effect, if any.

  13. Yes, and you are a complete and utter pestilence on thought and reason, spouting contradictory statements and doublespeak. I hope BigThink removes this crap from their channel, and quickly.

  14. Because there is none. Blindly agreeing is the opposite of critical thought or reason. If an idea is proposed and immediately seems flawed, then either it is, the proposal was bad, or you lack the mental ability to comprehend it. In none of those cases is accepting it justified, and it's not necessarily true that you could offer immediate constructive feedback beyond voicing what you see that is flawed. If I could fix it right then and there, the person deserves to be fired for incompetence.

  15. there's more to effective communication (communication that generates ideas and solutions, otherwise regarded as progress) than "yes..and".. if you truly wish how to inspire yourself you need first to understand how to communicate in an effective way. I'll say "yes..And?" to this video and there's nothing more to come. In philosophy or science an "argument" will not stand until it applies in EVERY instance (otherwise is just a matter of probability). Even so, I can see the value of his statement

  16. I didn't, I found it from Finnish wikipedia. It means trying to win an argument (this wasn't an argument, but its meaning still applies) by using lots of words, preferably long and difficult ones, to overwhelm the listener without meaningful content in the sentences themselves. In Finnish it's called 'sanahelinä'.

  17. Apparently it is, although it's not a commonly listed one. Which is a shame in itself seeing how many politicians and CEOs get away with using this tactic.

  18. I don't think it's very wise to teach such business models. Any company is on very thin ice if their bottom line is based on public image alone.

  19. He's definitely a good director. Also a favourite among Finnish comedians to make fun of, just give every actor a cigarette, make them act all gloomy and speak entirely in strict standard language and you've got yourself a Kaurismäki movie.

  20. Needs some examples of how this has been applied successfully.
    Not sure if it's a bad idea or just not well-explained

  21. Well I think it's more like: don't deny that the bridge is falling – accept that fact and see how to best go from there. Denial, paralysis, or defeatism are all unhelpful. The more urgent the situation, the more important it is to accept reality and work with what is.

  22. Yes, and maybe next time we can get a post with a bit more actual reasoning in it instead of just thoughts of fancy. Once you have said "yes" you have committed yourself to agreeing with what was already stated. Just tacking ", and" onto the statement doesn't then give you the ability to logically argue or circle around to take apart the statement or proposition. I am pretty sure that most people will think that the people who do that are just doublespeaking jerks.

  23. Person 1: We need to create market growth.
    Person 2: YES, we do need to create market growth, AND we are weak in these areas.
    Person 1: YES, we are weak in these areas, AND we can become strong in these areas by increasing our presence through proper branding.
    Person 2: YES, we can increase our presence through proper branding AND here is a brand I think can work.
    If Person 2 said, "No we don't need to create market growth" or "There's no way to," a possible solution path would've been killed.

  24. You are fired!
    YES. I will become an "artist"
    Your dole is cut!
    YES. I'll sell everything I have and try to sell my art on the market!
    You are evicted!
    YES. I will go out and choose the best bridge to live under!
    Hey man, do you want some crack?
    YES! I will make the most out of this experience!
    Hey, I'm looking for a little "companionship" tonite, you up for it? I'll pay…
    YES! More crack!
    Vote for (insert latest religious fundamentalist, extreme right wing candidate here)
    YES

  25. Yes… and I definitely see how this is a great bullshitting technique, but I realize that there is value in being able to effectively get a foot in the door in discussions where it's difficult to present a contrary idea.

  26. Saying yes in this sense doesn't commit you to agreeing with the statement or proposition, it commits you to accepting its existence. Instead of ignoring or throwing a tantrum at its existence, you see and affirm that it exists and take it apart to build on what's most advantageous.

  27. I said this before, but I'll copy paste it for you to see: 'It means trying to win an argument (this wasn't an argument, but its meaning still applies) by using lots of words, preferably long and difficult ones, to overwhelm the listener without meaningful content in the sentences themselves.'

  28. I'd say "Yes, and…" except that your statement is false. And for statements that are not true and which you do not agree with, we have OTHER words to use. Phrases like "I see what you are saying…" or "Well, let me think about that a second…" Those phrases accomplish what you are stating. "Yes" IS, at a bare minimum, a tacit agreement with the statement. That is what the word "YES" is used to indicate. "Yes, and" only works when you agree AND have something to ADD.

  29. THOSE are proper examples of using "Yes, and" because in those examples you actually agree with the original statement. The only other time a "Yes" makes sense to start a statement is when you are trying to directly contradict a statement that was pointedly negative. Such as if the first statement had been, "We do not need to create market growth." And in those cases the answers with "Yes" are designed to deliberately oppose the unsaid "No" in the first statement.

  30. The problem is that politicians dont try to solve problems. They try to turn them into oppertunities for them and their financial supporters instead of solving real problems.

  31. What makes you think they aren't? He spent maybe one day making the script and shooting the video, that leaves plenty of time to have fun, support a family, and make friends.

  32. He means actually doing something. Everyone can talk about making the world a better place, a better form of society, governance, policing, agriculture, education, manufacturing, medicine, the job market.

    It's easy to say how to do something. It's a lot harder to make it happen.

  33. Yes, and then we engage and interact and become a part of the solution instead of just asking "now what?", or what do you think?

  34. Yes, and like the violinist we try to understand our instrument better. But of course, there's no substitute for actually playing. Maybe we can do both, or what do you think?

  35. He is only one person, do you think he doesn't do everything in his power? He more than likely votes for politicians who support what goals he has for society.

  36. Often, when you rush to make something happen, it also goes horribly wrong, because you didn't take the time to look at all the possible consequences of your actions.

  37. No…

    What I said does have a relevant meaning, and to use fewer words would leave ambiguity. As for the Latin term I've already explained before that I don't know of a fitting English equivalent, nor has anyone yet suggested one.

    A perfect example is the 'convergent and divergent thinking' part, without concrete examples that could mean anything.

  38. This could be applied even if you don't fully agree with the first statement, but want to keep the process rolling. Such as,

    "We could increase class participation by docking more points for absences."
    "Yes, I like the idea of an incentive, AND we could use something less harsh– like giving students candy if they show up."

    You can accept part of the suggestion and build on that. Using "Yes, and …" allows you to shape the original suggestion with your own ideas.

  39. Yes and maybe me spending time on youtube is not the reason enough for taking you seriously, what do you think? And doesn't something have to be funny for it to be a joke?

  40. Maybe. What's funny for me wasn't funny for you… the reverse can also aplly. Let's not dwell on the matter. I made a comment. You didn't like it. It's ok.

  41. You need an actual, specific point that you're starting from to make this work, and contrary to what the video might say, it doesn't necessarily work for all problems. Just saying "9/11" and "The way Muslims think" does not give you any room to apply the principle, because what exactly are you saying yes to?

  42. That sounds more like a "Yes, but" to me. A close, but slightly different process than the "yes, and", because you are accepting an interpretation of the idea, then rejecting the idea.

    The "Yes, and" principle is not a manipulative way to get your idea to be accepted, but rather a way to change yourself in order to accept more of what comes at you.

  43. Person 1: We need more margaritas
    Person 2: Yes we need more margaritas AND we are out of ingredients
    Person 1: Yes we need more ingredients AND we need to clean the blender
    Person 2 Yes we need to clean the blender AND plug it in
    Person 1: Yes we need to plug it in AND then we need to mix the ingredients
    Person 2: Yes we need to mix the ingredients AND then we need to blend
    Person 3: …… we need to do something eventually

  44. Yes, that is the case in most circumstances certainly those promoted Kulhan, and you might consider how others could use this tool to manipulative ends, though likely in a more elegant fashion.

  45. Another way of looking at and using "Yes, and…" is that, at it's core, it's about taking whatever action or idea is thrown your way by another and building from it together rather than "taking over" individually. Eventually, as in improv, there is an "end" to yes/and'ng and it is achieved collaboratively (and, I think, naturally); whereas with "yes/but", 1 person is deciding "I am ending this – now go my way".

  46. Yes is preferable to OK because OK is an example of convergent thinking. OK evolved from "all correct" written on an inspection sheet. Meaning it was originally used by a gate-keeper to weed out impurities. This makes OK better suited to an editing process rather than a creative process.

  47. Can you dig the paradigm? Leaders don't make lists of things that need to be done. Leaders write down what they will have completed already in the future now. Leaders diverge their convergent thinking, consolidate the end result and open the door to further imaginings.

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