Just Say Yes

20 Oct


Have you ever had a great idea of yours immediately rejected? Or do you find yourself shaking your head when faced with opinions or ideas you haven’t heard before? Researchers have found that people tend to react negatively to new ideas. Novelty can triggers feeling of uncertainty and discomfort. This “anti-creativity bias” often leads us to dismiss new and good ideas for tried and true solutions that we are comfortable with.

“Uncertainty also makes us less able to recognize creativity, perhaps when we need it most,” states the study. Yet we know we need innovation. Science and technology developments make lives better and easier while being highly profitable. We do embrace innovation eventually. For example, Steve Jobs had to become the CEO of Apple twice before achieving mainstream success.

So now that we recognize this reaction but that it is limiting, what do we do? So can we change this instinctive reaction to novelty? The Rules of Improv, as summarized by Tina Fey in Bossypants, provide a ready made solution. When engaging in an improvised dialogue, always being by responding affirmatively, then add something of your own. Not a question, but a statement. Finally, enjoy the process. There is no right or wrong, but my continuing happy accidents will occur.

1. Agree – Always agree and say yes

  • Respect what your partner has created
  • Start from an open-minded place

2. Yes, And – Agree, and add something of your own

  • Don’t be afraid to contribute
  • Always make sure to add something to the discussion

3. Make Statements – Whatever the problem, be part of the solution

  • Don’t ask questions all the time
  • Offer opinions and suggestions

4. There are no mistakes, only opportunities

  • Many of the world’s greatest discoveries have been beautiful, happy accidents

By following these steps, we can not only begin to embrace new ideas but begin to build on them. It is so much more rewarding to create and contribute than disagree and criticize. Let’s all be part of the solution, whatetever the proble.

image via Shepard Fairey


Mueller, J. S., S. Melwani and J. A. Goncalo. 2011. The Bias Against Creativity: Why People Desire But Reject Creative Ideas. In press at Psychological Science.

Catt, M. People are biased against creative ideas, studies find. Cornell University press release, August 25, 2011.


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