The power of Yes And thinking

April 8, 2015

NHS Health Check

Susan Moger and Tudor Rickards

The power of Yes And thinking is explored within a workshop on Taking Tough Decisions: A creative problem-solving approach. as part of the Fifth National Medical Leadership conference 17th April 2015 at the Macron Stadium, Bolton

This post is based on an earlier document which we used regularly with MBA students at Manchester Business School over a period of years. We have retained it in its original form, and appended references to subsequent work.

We believe that the climate for creative ideas can often be negative. As a shorthand, we talk about a YES BUT climate in which people are prone to respond to any new idea with a ‘Yes But’.  This negative mind-set is based on unconsciously held beliefs and we can weaken these by becoming conscious, to the extent of becoming self-conscious of ‘Yes Butting’. In this way we begin to reduce the damage caused by excessive Yes Butting by substituting ‘Yes and’.

Yes but’ implies ‘There is something wrong with this idea. I want nothing further to do with this bad idea’.

In contrast, ‘Yes And’ implies ‘There is something that can be improved about this idea. I am willing to work at it to improve it as best I can’.

To take a simple example:

‘I have just thought of the idea of flypaper to go in cars to stop insects distracting you when you are driving’.

‘Yes But … wherever you put it someone would get stuck sooner or later’.

‘Yes And … if you could design it so that passengers never get stuck it would be even better. How about an insecticide block or the paper inside a mesh with fly attractant. Or how about combining it with the air freshener?

Note: In follow-up studies of participants on our courses, more find they have applied ‘Yes And’ to benefit than any other technique.

Since we wrote the manual [sometime in the 1990s] we have continued to find Yes And a powerful means of overcoming negativity, promoting creativity, addressing tough leadership dilemmas, and resolving communication difficulties. It engages with issues of positive psychology, discursive communications theory.and conflict resolution approaches.


We acknowledge encouragement from Dr Rebecca Baron for reviving this note  as a contribution to The National Leadership Conference, and Shropshire NHS for the creative image urging Health Checks..

The overall Yes And approach was published as The Power of the And in The Handbook for creative team leaders . We further revised it in The Routledge Companion To Creativity,  and in Dilemmas of Leadership

Hurricane Sandy

October 30, 2012

Science can watch, measure anticipate plan, and protect. But Hurricane Sandy reminds us of the limits of human power over nature

The world watches the unfolding path of destruction unleashed by Hurricane Sandy. It seems appropriate that the hurricane arrived on the Western seaboard of the United States in time to disrupt an increasingly fractious campaign to elect the next President there.

Instantaneous updates

Most news sources seem to be communicating the primary information instantaneously. Wikipedia, for example, is as powerful a source of information as the older media. I did not expect it to be so.

Politics briefly on hold

President Obama has said that he was worried for the American people and that “The election can take care of itself for next week”. But whatever he says remains a political statement.

After the deluge

After the deluge the stocktaking. By late Monday [October 31st, 2012] the ‘end of the beginning’ was glimpsed on the Eastern seaboard. Weather maps still showed the red alert danger warnings across New York, New Jersey, and much of New England. The Washington Post turned attention to the future

Storm-ravaged residents of New York and New Jersey began urgent recovery efforts Tuesday after a nighttime pummeling from Hurricane Sandy, which caused widespread flooding, raging fires and broad power outages and left at least 40 people dead from Connecticut to North Carolina.

It’s not politics, but…

The harder President Obama avoided politics, the more political each move seemed. His visits to stricken New Jersey and his rapport with Republican Governor Chris Christie illustrate this point

The BBC still doesn’t understand social media

February 12, 2010

An investigation carried out by the BBC shows that despite the multi-million investments on web-based business, the corporation still doesn’t get it

A BBC investigative reporter cut himself off from mainstream media this week. He was attempting to investigate claims of the power of the internet as an alternative to traditional news media. From the start, the exercise was grounded in a poorly-formulated assumption. After a week, it only confirmed that the BBC culture is hopelessly mired in its increasingly obsolete mindsets.

To test the power of the internet, the journalist imposed a ban on all contact with news from traditional media – including his own organization, to see whether access to the internet would be a substitute or even be something better. The motivation was stated to be a remark by a tweeter that she doesn’t need to find news, because important news will find her.

That’s a promising start, and offers a testable hypothesis. But the conditions introduced by the investigator could hardly be more flawed. He decided that he would use only his active surfing to substitute for his normal informational diet. While he would get to twitter, for example, he would not follow-up any links on the tweets he found, on the grounds that such actions would lead him back to stuff originally generated by traditional news media such as the BBC.

Now what sort of experiment is that? One which tries to avoid any reflection of how the internet media works. It’s naïve or disingenuous to treat it as a substitute for a person’s normal flows of information. A far more meaningful investigation would consider how long it might take to have gone beyond the start-up stage and get to a reasonably stable set of links. How those links add value. Whether added value was found. Where it comes from, and so on.

At the end of a week of self-imposed apartheid system of information management, the journalist concluded that the social media offer a poor substitute for the news generated by institutions with proper journalists like himself.

A contrary view is one shared by the experiences of personal acquaintances who, having become involved in the process of news gathering on some professional or technical issue, are disillusioned about the outcome as their comments are reinterpreted into a news story. Now that’s a story worth investigating. But don’t bother to wait for the BBC to do it justice.