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This method is a way to develop a collaborative idea and defer judgement during the creative ideation phase of brainstorming.


“Yes, And...” is a structured process that supports free and open brainstorming which is vital in the expansion and elaboration phases of ideation. Originally developed in improvisation theatre, it is also a way to disrupt the common habit of responding to an idea or suggestion by saying “yes...but”, which can kill a brainstorm before it has a chance to become something useful or inspiring. In its most basic form, one person starts with a question or proposition and then, in a circle, each successive person adds something to it, starting each new addition with the phrase “yes, and...”. The exercise can be done in triads or in small table groups, and either in writing (Variation 1) or out loud (Variation 2). The inspiration for its use here also from ‘Exquisite Corpse’ and ‘Brain Writing’ (see references).


Variation 1: Written

  1. Start by clearly stating the broad design challenge that is the focus of the workshop. For instance, if the case study is about designing a new town square (see Case 4, p. 75 in the toolkit), the challenge could be: “How can the new town center become a transformative space?”;
  2. Next, give participants one minute to think of a more specific question related to the design challenge and write it on the top of a sheet of paper. An example could be: “How can the new square incorporate a sense of play?” or “How can the new square be like a stork’s nest?;
  3. Each person passes their question to the person on their left, who then has one minute to add an idea or a suggestion;
  4. The paper is passed again, and the next person starts by writing “Yes... and...” and then adding their suggestion. The rest of the group continues in the same fashion until the paper has returned to the original owner of the question;
  5. The question owner then reads all of the answers and elaborates a final suggestion or synthesis;
  6. Ask participants to share how they felt during the exercise: what was difficult or easy, what was surprising and inspiring. Take a few minutes to note down thoughts, ideas, or inspirations.

Variation 2: Spoken

  1. First, identify a question;
  2. Then, in pairs, triads, or small groups, ask one person to start by proposing an idea;
  3. The next person adds to the idea, starting by saying “Yes, and...”, continuing around the circle in the same fashion;
  4. After 1-3 rounds are completed, participants share how they felt during the exercise: what was difficult or easy, what was surprising and inspiring. Facilitators note down thoughts, ideas, and inspirations;
  5. To start a new round, ask another person to initiate the process with a new idea or question.

Place on U
10 - 30 minutes
Materials Needed

For the written form of this method, a template can be used, such as an A4 paper divided into 8 sections (4 on each side) with space for each person to write their idea. Each section begins with the words “Yes, and...”.

Decision Making
Disruptive Practices
Ideation & Brainstorming
Online Engagement
Design Thinking
Future Visioning
Tip and Experiences
  • Encourage people to be outlandish - this phase of ideation should welcome wild ideas;
  • Note that with a certain emphasis, “and” can be turned into “but”; thus, it’s important to encourage people to stay with the spirit of the “and”;
  • You may pose some provocative questions if participants are feeling stuck. Another option is to have them pick a question out of the jar and if they don’t like it, they can put it back and choose another one or make their own.

Relevant References & Resources

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