Last week I dug into Netflix’s excellent new documentary series “Abstract”. Each of the show’s eight episodes profiles a creative who is making an impact through design.
One of the ideas that stuck with me the most was the manifesto for Danish architect Bjarke Ingles, founder of BIG (Bjarke Ingles Group). His credo, “yes is more,” challenges the choices put before architects—and anyone in a creative field. By defying tradition and the assumption that you must choose one thing over another, he finds ways to say yes to both and have a better outcome as a result.
In one of my favorite projects featured on the show, Copenhill, he took the tallest building in Copenhagen, a waste-to-energy power plant, and put a ski hill on top. By encouraging people to visit and play on a power plant, he totally shifted the perception of this huge building that would traditionally be considered dirty and off-limits. The chimney, in another twist, was designed to puff rings of steam and became a symbol of celebration rather than pollution.
At one point in the documentary, an architecture critic raises doubts about his approach. Is he doing too many projects at once, is he spread too thin? If you’re the architect who says yes to everything, including every commission, do you at some point have to start making compromises in your vision? Do you start repeating yourself? Ingles’ response to this was pride that his work inspired a reaction and an acknowledgment that responses will come in both extremes.
Overall, I appreciated his drive and creativity, but the personality trait that came through the most was his optimism. The concept of saying yes to everything is definitely daunting. But that “yes” spirit can really lift a team.
A few months ago Real Art organized our company retreat and made the unusual choice of having an improv theater owner, Justin Howard, moderate the day. We did a handful of skits (though no trust falls); the exercise we did that stands out the most was the challenge to split into pairs and plan a Halloween party. We actually planned the party two times in quick succession.
In the first scenario, we answered our partner’s suggestion with the phrase “yes, but” and in the second scenario all suggestions were to be answered with “yes, and.” It was powerful to see our parties fall apart with the qualifier “but,” and then be set free by adding the word “and.”
Very quickly, we realized when we say “yes, but,” we are effectively saying “no”. “Yes, and” sounds so similar, but in practice is such a different way to continue a conversation. We’re in the middle of kicking off some incredible new work, and this week has been a great time to be reminded of the power of “yes.”
Have you read, watched, or listened to something that’s jumpstarted your creativity? I’d love to hear about it. And if you’re excited about saying yes to amazing clients and some incredibly talented Real Arters, our account team is growing.