“Gather into groups of 4-5 classmates,” the guest speaker confidently commanded in front of the room. My MBA classmates and I did as instructed as part of our personal and professional development course on the theme of “Effective Brainstorming Techniques.” The instructor continued,  “Now brainstorm ways this MBA program can improve its recruiting efforts for next year’s class based on your experience. You have 3 minutes, go!”   

The 35 of us launched into the challenge, flexing our Type-A driven personalities to “win” at arriving at the most creative strategies and solutions to this hypothetical assignment. I listened to my small group and then interjected, “But that may not attract international students because of XYZ.” Proud of my contribution, I noticed a pause and a re-boot period of the conversation. A minute later, I interjected again, “Instead of that, why don’t we do XYZ.” The brainstorming of my group felt stunted, and I thought I was not in the right group for this assignment. Perhaps I just needed to be with more like-minded classmates. My internal dialogue was interrupted when the instructor notified us that time was up and shared some new rules.  

“This was to show you how we typically brainstorm. Now, let me add a couple of parameters: never say the word ‘but.’ Your first response to an idea must always be ‘yes and.'”  

What I learned that day was what improv acting classes have long known: when you respond with “yes and,” it builds off of your fellow actor’s creation and builds on the scene. 

Sure enough, when our group returned to brainstorming and adopted this minor tweak, we arrived at more creative solutions. Surprisingly enough, this improv technique can also help us live well.  

I recently listened to an interview with Dr. Mark Hyman, where he shares an important “yes and” mindset when it comes to maximizing our healthspan and longevity: 

“We need to properly stimulate muscle synthesis but also activate autophagy. It’s not an all or nothing, we need to understand that they are both needed.” 

For those unfamiliar, autophagy is the process of cellular cleanup that happens when our bodies are in a fast state. Muscle synthesis is the process of building muscle by consuming certain foods and amino acids. The point is these states are complete opposites, and yet they are also “yes and” strategies for longevity.   

Back to Dr. Hyman: 

“So it’s like the Goldilocks problem. You don’t want it (the protein synthesis mechanism called mTOR) on all the time, but you do want it on sometimes so you can build muscle.” 

The full interview goes into strategies for achieving the right balance of allowing your body enough time for cellular repairs while consuming the right amount and type of protein to maximize longevity. If you are eager to learn more I encourage you to watch the whole conversation here

In summary, my takeaway is to encourage us all to try a “yes and” mindset in life and in our health and well-being. It may produce more creative solutions and opportunities to build momentum, not only in group work but also in your health.   

Enjoy the “yes and” mindset to live well and embark on your creative journey.