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Think yes before no: The improv comedy technique used at Flatiron Health


January 2020


Shannon McNamara

Think yes before no: The improv comedy technique used at Flatiron Health

I've been teaching and performing improv comedy for over seven years, and the most important rule of improv is "yes, and…"

Here's what this means in simple terms: Agree with your comedy partners during a show (the "yes") and build onto what they're saying (the "and…").

This concept is crucial for collaboration and brainstorming. As Stephen Colbert says, "Cynics always say 'no.' But saying 'yes' begins things. Saying 'yes' is how things grow. Saying "yes" leads to knowledge. So for as long as you have the strength to, say "yes".

I once walked on stage during a show, with an idea in my head to come into the scene as a teacher. My scene partner noticed me walking on, and remarked, "Well there he is! The fattest giraffe you've ever seen!"

I did not want to be a fat giraffe. But the "yes, and…" rule is the key to success, so I stretched my neck to its fullest length, slowed my gait, and said, "I've been preparing all year for this hot dog eating contest. I'm going to win."

When I joined Flatiron Health last year, I was delighted to see that one of our values was "Think ‚ 'yes' before ‚ 'no'". Flatiron described this value as: "Be open to new ideas and challenge the status quo. First explore how something can work, not why it won't."

This value and the enthusiasm with which Flatiron employees grasp this has made my time working in the Marketing department incredibly enjoyable.

Every year, Flatiron hosts our annual user conference, OncoCloud . It's an impactful three-day event where customers learn about new products, pose any and all questions to Flatiron experts, and network with their community oncology peers. One of the pieces of feedback we received from the conference last year was, "this is a great event, but I'd love even more chances to speak with my peers."

Our marketing team took this feedback and said: "Yes, and…"

Yes, and...we are going to create Flatiron Communities , so you can connect with your peers virtually.

Yes, and...we will make five different communities so you can focus on very specific topics with your peers.

Yes, and...our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Bobby Green, will share his clinical thoughts once a month in our Curbside Newsletter .

Yes, and...we will host quarterly virtual meetings, create new communities based on demand, host in-person meetings during OncoCloud and more!

Brainstorming is a critical part of any project, and focusing on "yes" instead of "no" gives way to beautiful results. We could have said, "people are looking to connect with each other, but Facebook and LinkedIn already do that," or "it would be great for Bobby to share his thoughts, but he's so busy and is this really needed?"

Saying "yes" is what created Flatiron Communities, and I invite you all to check out our communities and sign up for any that interest you! (Say "yes" to that submit button.)

I'm eager to continue our Marketing work here at Flatiron, and I look forward to saying "yes" many times more in the future.