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Workplace Culture

What’s the Magic Word? ‘Yes, and’ Brings New Meaning to Workplace Communications

Comedian and author Frank Ford believes communications can improve with those two simple words.
Frank Ford

Author Frank Ford, seated, third from right, is a big believer in the power of ‘yes, and.’

Saying “yes” more often will have positive effects on someone’s lifestyle, according to Frank Ford, the co-founder of Four Day Weekend, a comedy institution in Texas and co-author of the recently published book “Happy Accidents.” He’s had a successful career throughout the entertainment industry for the last 25 years and is applying his craft to better communications in the workplace. Workforce intern Alexis Carpello caught up with Ford to discuss his new book.

Workforce: What was the purpose of “Happy Accidents”?

Frank Ford: The goal and purpose was born out of people requesting the information that we were giving in our “yes, and” keynotes and workshops. We do [them] for Fortune 500 companies and CEOs throughout the country and the world, but not everybody can attend one of those private events.

A lot of people were like, “Hey this information would be great for everybody.” We really took that to heart and said the keynotes are becoming wildly popular and it’s the fastest growing part of our business. Let’s write a book. We should put these thoughts down, these exercises down, these philosophies down on paper and see if we can get a book out there to share the secrets to our success with everybody and to reach a larger audience.

We knew that the message resonating, we knew it was popular, and we thought a book would be a great way to get it out there to people throughout the country that may not be able to see us do it live.

WF: Why do you think it’s important for people to incorporate “yes, and” into their lives?

Ford: Here’s the thing in our culture now or in our society it seems to us, being improvisors, that no is everybody’s default or “no, but” or “yes, but.” It’s a very negative default to be in and one of things that improvisation and the philosophy of “yes, and” teaches you to do. You go with suggestions. Improv teaches you present, to be in the moment, to not judge ideas, to “yes, and” someone’s suggestion into something bigger and better.

When we started Four Day Weekend 20 years ago, we’re not business majors, and we thought as our business is growing we need a business philosophy, what’s it going to be? As it turned out we started to look at all of these philosophies that we use onstage. We said, “This is a really positive, forward thinking way of doing things on stage I wonder if the same philosophies would work just as well offstage with our business model.” Sure enough it did. Then we started to teach it to our staff, and the staff loved it, and they became “yes, and” people and we said, “I wonder if people outside of the Four Day organization would be interested in a form of forward, positive thinking.” The Fortune 500 companies said this is incredible. It just snowballed from there. It’s all born out of improvisation. “Yes, and” opens the doors to possibilities. It encourages collaboration. There’s also an empathetic sort of undertone to all of it. When we’re on stage as performers … we’re both making each other look good on stage so we all look good, the show looks good, everybody looks good. You have to practice it.

We just know that humor is a great vehicle for conveying some of this stuff in an easy to understand, easy to digest way that’s easy to practice. Comedy is a spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down. If you break everything down it’s common sense stuff.

WF: Did you have a target audience in mind while creating the book?

Ford: We started off doing this to apply to business, but what we found was this was for everybody. It’s for individual development [and] personal development as we found out.

There was someone at the wellness summit who heard it. He was watching our presentation and his wife was there and said, “Maybe we can use this to help the communication in our marriage,” and they did. They told us, “My wife and I really did the ‘yes, and’ thing with each other and it’s amazing.” So this became for individuals who wanted to better themselves. Entrepreneurs that wanted to have a methodology or philosophy for approaching life without fear, insecurity and being able to make the leap. It also worked for companies and corporations that wanted to change their culture, their internal culture from “no, but” to “yes, and”.

The scope as we were writing it and doing these keynotes broadened to include everybody. The book is really about everybody, because we represent everybody. We represent people on an individual basis, I know personally how it’s helped me. We represent people on a company basis because of what we’re able to talk about at Four Day Weekend. We’re also able to represent the entrepreneurs. We are a cross section of everybody in America because of the group and who’s in the group and how many different personalities that there are. It really encompasses everybody, and everybody that wants to be better individuals, a better company, a better city, a better whatever. This “yes, and” philosophy applies to all.

Alexis Carpello is a Workforce intern. Comment below or email editors@workforce.com.