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Yes, And

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Yes, And

How Improvisation Reverses “No, But” Thinking and Improves Creativity and Collaboration


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Chicago’s Second City improvisational techniques can help you and your firm be more creative, less fearful and more nimble.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


Many comedy stars performed at Chicago’s renowned improvisational theater company The Second City, and went on to fame and success. They include Mike Myers, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Bill Murray, Bonnie Hunt, Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and many more, including the late Gilda Radner, John Candy and John Belushi. Second City also has trained managers, marketers, teachers, lawyers and leaders. The executive vice president of Second City Inc., Kelly Leonard, and the CEO of Second City Works, Tom Yorton, weave funny anecdotes into this clear-headed, practical guide to applying improvisational techniques to personal and organizational growth. Their storytelling, as you might expect from their improv foundation, rambles, and not all of their examples line up with the points they try to illustrate. Yet the authors demonstrate rigor and concision when they discuss the core of their approach. Their simple, applicable exercises can heighten your awareness and help you be present, listen actively, respond to a crisis, face failure fearlessly, trust your co-workers, collaborate effectively and get out of your own way. getAbstract recommends their time-tested, commonsense system to executives, managers, HR officers and anyone who works with other people.


Second City

Chicago’s Second City theater troupe presents ensemble-based, improvisational comedy. Its actors team up to co-write every performance in spontaneous collaboration. Second City also teaches its cooperative, improvisational – or “improv” – techniques in its corporate consultancy work. Nissan, Motorola, Google, Nike and other firms send employees to study its improv collaboration, fast responses and active listening methods. As hierarchies prove increasingly less effective and businesses grow more fluid, only the most nimble and creative will prevail.

The “Seven Elements of Improv”

Mastering the pivotal factors of improv can help you and your firm “generate ideas,” improve communication, establish effective work ensembles, fuel candid dialogue, dismantle silos and spark creative solutions. Second City teaches these strategies:

  1. “Yes, And” – Improv springs from two words, “yes, and.” When someone offers an idea, respond “yes” to welcome the concept. Then say “and” before reacting. This attitude opens your consciousness to infinite possibilities. Saying “yes, and” means exploring every idea that arises, including ideas...

About the Authors

Second City Inc. executive VP Kelly Leonard has been with the troupe since 1988. Second City Works CEO Tom Yorton teaches businesspeople how to use comedy and improv to improve their performance.

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    T. D. 8 years ago
    As one of life's "cup half full" optimists, I loved this summary. I was introduced to "Yes, and" 10 years ago, but need to use it more. And when I look back at all the teams I've worked in - and they were all great - I can now see the most productive were those where we behaved like - and were also financially   incentivised - as an "ensemble".
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    G. H. 9 years ago
    I liked this book summary. It is hard not to use some words like No. I try to do what I can for people.