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Try “Yes, and…” Today

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Let there be a Science of Deep Collaboration

When I hand out a group project in my writing class I hear audible groans.

It’s because we’re trained to work at things on our own—that’s how scholarship and schoolwork and academics have worked for a long time. The groans come from all the extra work of communicating and all the expectations around not knowing if others in the group will keep their end of the group-work bargain. The groans come from the anxieties that hover around roles and responsibilities and knowing you’ll have to sell your ideas.

I am eager for new and deeper research into collaboration. Let’s call it a Science of Collaboration. Maybe it is a social science. People like Keith Sawyer and Edgar Schein are moving this science forward—along with many others. I am fond of the work Patricia Ryan Madson has done around Improv, which seems the perfect gateway for anyone to learn the fun of collaboration. And Keith Johnstone seems to have spawned many thinkers along these lines.

YesAnd-2-05302014I’d like for this science to do (at least) two things:

  1. Invite people in who have been working alone for forever. But gently, and independent of the introvert/extrovert divide. I want the invitation to show the fun of the process. I want that invitation to promise more aha moments and then to quickly deliver on that promise.
  2. Show next steps to working together. What can an ad hoc team do to quickly get grounded enough to toss ideas that build on each other? There are techniques out there, certainly, but I’d like this to be second nature, part of our emotional intelligence, something we come to expect. Something we’ve grown up with.


“Yes, and…” seems a perfect place to start. This is the old improv notion of building directly on what the last person just said. And quickly, without lots of deliberation. It requires a certain fearlessness.

What if “Yes, and…” was built into our educational DNA from grade school up?



Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

May 30, 2014 at 9:57 am

3 Responses

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  1. Reblogged this on CollabHub and commented:
    Interested in collaboration? A great idea!


    June 15, 2014 at 2:45 pm

  2. […] is why students groan audibly when I introduce a group project in a writing class. Especially when their grade depends on […]

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