Sticky Notes of Thoughts

…because some thoughts are worth remembering

On Re-examining Yes: What Buddhism and Improv Have in Common


In a previous blog post, I wrote about the power of the word “yes”. I’m finding more and more approaches and techniques I use in my management that were actually part of Buddhist practices.

In Buddhism, to say “yes” doesn’t necessarily have to mean “I agree with you”, much like how we nod while someone is telling you a story, to show them that you are following their train of thought, rather than condoning what they are saying (often referred to as “minimal response” in linguistics).

In Buddhism, saying yes to a request, an opportunity, or as a reaction, means you are making room for it.

It means that you are entertaining the possibilities that come with it, and it does not have to mean you desire it.


When you make room for something, then you are immediately and automatically allowing for different possibilities that did not exist if you had reacted with a “no”.

It is no wonder that the fundamental rule of improvisational theater (or improv) summed up as “yes, and…”.

When comedian, writer, and actress, Tina Fey was interviewed by Google’s then CEO, Eric Schmidt, they did a little improv exercise on stage, during “Talks @ Google”(start the video at 3:00 mark):

Eric: Stop, I’ve got a gun.

Tina: The gun? The gun I gave you for our wedding anniversary? Eric, how could you!?

Eric: We are not married.

Tina: (breaks from the scene) Aha, We are not married is a denial. We’ve learned our first improv lesson.

Because to say “we are not married” ends the scene. They discuss what it would have been to make room for that possibility: a comeback such as “but what about the children?” would have continued the scene.

Comedians speak of improv as if it is zen training: diligent practice of the craft, being in the moment, being one with the space that includes the stage, the other actors, and the audience),  and you can’t hang onto that one line that was hilarious and gloat in its glory. That wave is gone and you have to let it go, and move onto the next wave that is swelling in front of you.

Management can learn from both Buddhism and improv, which brings me to a book on my “to read” list: Yes, And. Or is it more effective to enroll in an improv class?

Photo: New York City, New York



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This entry was posted on August 11, 2015 by in Book, Buddhism, Management, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , .
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