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  • Writer's pictureNiki Ernst


The science of yes-but-and

I am observing two forces a lot of people are driven by but not a lot of people admit: Judgement and Competition.

And when we look at our education system - school is where you learn for life, right? - we look at a system of categories and marks. Later, in corporate life, we look at KPIs and reviews. We are a social system of boxes, comparison and judgement.  Even our UBERs are rated, our AirBnBs and our eBays: I commit to do business with you, because of previous experiences from other people (I have never met) with you and their reviews, ratings and your aggregated “reputation” score.

I think, competition and judgement are not only outdated concepts, but actually soon be replaced by machines. No doubt, you would rather be judged by a human than by a machine, but: would you prefer to do business with a stranger, rated by a human, or a stranger, rated by a machine? When the machines purpose is to develop a reputation score from your own behaviour (and not from what other people think of your behaviour), we will stop competing with others, but actually be competing with the previous version of ourselves. And if that prediction turns out to be true, we would eventually turn into better humans. 

Competition today basically means that we are looking at other players around us and thrive to be better at what they are doing. The problem is, that todays competition has the same fears, questions, doubts, worries - when they think about their future - because they know that it is very likely that their future competitor will not only change their industry, but also come from a different industry. In other words: most of us don’t even know, who their competition is. What an absurd concept.

My favourite use-case of competitive thinking is the ubiquitous “yes, but” - appearing in a lot of conversations. Yes (because I am polite), but (you are wrong). The but part has not only a protective aspect (“my experience tells me that what you are saying is only partly true/wrong”), but also a strong competitive aspect (“whatever you tell me, I know better”). In a non competitive world, we would just take the “me” and “you” out of the equation, and would be able to say something like YES (“if this is true”,), AND (“what else would be true”) and would not only build on an idea, but actually develop your own versions and finally be able to come up with something new and original.

Formalities suck, until they make sense. You might have heard “Yes, and” instead of “Yes, but”, already - but maybe only as a self disciplined way of letting other opinions count. Try to use this new formula: If this is true (YES), what else is true (AND) - and you will be excited, how many amazing new ideas will develop.

By the way, you have just learned a fundamental maxim of improv. You are not only full of positive energy, you are actually geared up with the most adorable and admirable social skill: humor. Best way to change a behaviour is when it makes fun. Because I am not here to tell you, what is right and what is wrong.

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