“Yes but” vs. “Yes and”

By: CTA Staff
5 November 2010

The Klutz Book of Inventions by John Cassidy and Brendan Boyle

I recently had the opportunity to attend a workshop with Brendan Boyle, Chief Creative officer for IDEO. His lecture was titled “Brilliance meets Ridiculous – 5 ways to be more innovative”.  The five main points were as follows:

  1. Encourage Ridiculous – The most brilliant ideas are on the edge of ridiculous. ie.: Ridiculously simple, Ridiculously easy
  2. Encourage Quantity – The more ideas that are generated, the more likely a really good one is to surface.
  3. Encourage “Yes and….” – As opposed to “Yes but…” The object is to build on an idea- not immediately reject it. Collaborate to build and enhance an idea
  4. Collect Junk – Have the tools and materials on hand to work through ideas. Often unexpected breakthroughs come in the creation process
  5. Act different – Routine is the killer of creativity. Approach ideas from a different angle. If you act creative you will be more creative.

In my experience perhaps the most common brainstorm hurdle is #3. How many times have you said “Yes but….” when brainstorming with others or how many times has it come from the other side of the table? To explain how powerful “Yes and” is, Brendan did a little exercise with the audience. In groups of three we became party planners, who responded to each person’s idea with “Yes and” and in two minutes some of the most outrageous creative and hilarious parties ideas were hatched.

I am evolving my own thought process to be “Yes and” vs. “Yes but”. I have found that brainstorming sessions are far less likely to get bogged down in the battle of ideas and more likely to build and enhance and idea. AND it makes idea generating sessions a lot more fun!!

To see how all Brendan’s five points give rise to innovation check out his new book “The Klutz Book of Inventions”.

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