“Can we go to Disneyland?”

“No, but…”

“Can we get pizza?”

“No, but…”

“Can we see a movie tonight?”

“No, but…”

“Then what do you want to do…!”


What does the opposite look like?


“Can we go to Disneyland?”

“Yes, let’s save up our money this week and go over the weekend.”

“Yes, and let’s go on all of the rides twice.”

“Yes, and let’s hit Downtown Disney before we leave.”


The number one rule in improv is  “yes, and.. thinking.” This doesn’t mean that you have to agree with what someone says.

For example, if someone says “let’s drive our car into a wall,” I wouldn’t follow that up with a “yes, and take a left and gun the engine.” 

What it does mean is to accept what the person says and then advance the conversation.

When people talk about how creativity and possibility are nurtured between two people, this is one way to get there.

In “A Beautiful Constraint,” Adam Morgan writes about this concept without giving credit to improv. Instead, he suggests that whenever you want to say “no,” revise that to say “we can if.”

He argues that a statement like “we can if” has led to some of the world’s greatest innovations. One example in the book is how the furniture retailer Ikea decided it would sell a $15 table. Without any clear path forward, the team used “yes, and thinking” to propel them instead of thinking of all the ways why something wouldn’t work.

Next time you find yourself saying “no, but” think about what it might look like to say “yes, and.”