Yes, and…

Halfway mark of my summer internship at Tapad! The past 4 weeks have been very exciting and fulfilling. Learning from experienced colleagues and marketing gurus is not only educational from a technical perspective, but also quite inspiring for my personal development. This Friday, we had a team-building improv workshop (I truly recommend everyone and every team to check it out. Really mind blowing!). I was impressed by the “Yes, and…” teamworking spirit and the power of encouragement.

The 4-hour workshop consisted of small games, and the complexity of the game increased as we went on. In one of the games “advocate your product”, 3 people team up to advocate a product with some random gibberish name provided by the audience. Then, the team will improvise on what this product is, what it looks like, how it works, and which celebrity will endorse it.  It sounds quite intimidating at first look because no one in the room knows what to expect, including the team who creates it. There is no time to think twice, let alone to make a perfect plan. All you can do is go with the flow.

Most people including myself in the room are not used to such improvisation. Before we speak anything, we tend to think in our head what to say, how to say it, how the others may perceive it, what is the consequence, etc. This self-judgment and perfectionism sometimes prevents us from expressing ourselves at all. There have been many times when I wanted to ask a question during a meeting, but did not because I was worrying whether my question was too silly, or when I wanted to propose a new idea, but did not because I was not sure whether it was good enough. This is not because I do not have confidence in my idea, rather, this is mostly because I want the idea to be better, more mature, more solid, so that I can best defend myself when other people question it. The mindset of defending a perfect idea is completely opposite to the mindset in improvisation.

Why do we worry so much about other people potentially questioning our ideas? Because we can easily get defensive and discouraged when other people say “No”, or being polite, they say “Yes, but…”. To avoid such negative feelings, we either try our best to make sure no one would question us by making our idea perfect, or simply remain silent. A person will not make a mistake by saying nothing. At the same time, a person who never makes a mistake will never make anything. If we want to be creative and innovative, if we want to improve and progress, if we want to build a team that fulfill its potential, we might as well embrace the “Yes, and…” spirit and encourage each other to speak up.

In the “advocate your product” game, whenever a teammate says something,  all other teammates cheer excitedly and acclaim loudly “Yes!” The next teammate who continues speaking will build upon the previous description with “and…”. No matter how surprising and unusual a teammate’s idea is, he or she would always receive unconditional encouragement and support, and the team would work together to justify the idea. It brings a tremendous amount of comfort and relief not to worry about potential criticism from others, and focus only on the sparks of thoughts. Your idea and talk may not be the most clever, perfect, and mature one, but it is authentic and open. And you know all your teammates are there to back you up.

No idea is perfect in the beginning. Or I shall say, no idea is perfect, ever. The problem of perfectionism is that it denies improvement. However, improvement never stops. Rather than thinking in our own head forever, why not share our thoughts with others and ask for feedback? You never know what could happen when you bring two creative minds together.

Tapad’s proprietary cross-screen technology platform is called Unify. It also represents the teamworking spirit embraced by people working here. I believe the second half of my internship will be even more inspiring and fulfilling!

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