Working in the spirit of “Yes, And…”

I was reading Public Libraries magazine.  You know the one that comes in the mail and you hold in your hands.  I was pleasantly surprised to find an article by the PLA president talking about how to create partnerships with your community.

Now, for any of you that know me, you’ve heard me talking about the skills of improvisation and how useful they could be to library staff.  So I was delighted to find our PLA president saying:“We found our organization opening up after a communications training session that taught the “yes, and…” principle.  “

Yes, And… is one of the main principles that improvisers use and practice.

When I mention improvisation, people sometimes get worried that they will have to “perform” but it’s not about performing.  There are skills improvisers practice that help people work together effectively.  In fact, if you’ve been in one of my workshops in the past 5 years, you’ve already done some of the same activities improvisers use to hone their skills though you probably had no idea you were practicing “improv”.

Here’s why the skills of improvisation matter to libraries.  One of the things that makes it difficult to move forward in libraries besides money, is people stuck in old beliefs or old mental models of what the library should be.  To keep libraries viable into the future no matter what that future looks like, we need to retrain staff to be flexible, nimble and collaborative so that each person’s perspective and experience can be used to create the future of the library.  It’s very similar to what stage improvisers do.  They practice a skill set that allows them to support each other in an ever-changing environment.  That’s exactly what we expect our staff to do on a daily basis.

I have the same question Marcia asks in her Public Libraries article “What would happen if your organizational culture was one of “yes”?

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