Yes And

How TCU Neeley is Turning “What if” into “Yes, and”

At TCU Neeley, we turn “what if” into “yes, and” to show our students that in a world full of nay-sayers, encouragement and collaboration are more powerful than any critic.

March 23,  2018

By Elaine Cole

[Excerpt from Neeley Magazine]  -  TCU Neeley students know the power of teamwork, collaboration and a positive attitude. They live it every day, in the classroom and on the job, and if they get discouraged, they can count on a refresher course from Four Day Weekend, entrepreneur-in-residence. 

David Ahearn, Frank Ford and David Wilk, founders of Four Day weekend improvisational troupe, write in their latest book, Happy Accidents: The Transformative Power of “Yes, and” in Work and Life, that people succeed better through trust, teamwork and making each other look good. 

Four Day Weekend uses the “yes, and” philosophy to move the action forward on stage and make a scene a roaring success. That means taking an idea, no matter how whacky, and running with it, knowing that your colleagues will help you look good and not leave you standing in the hot spot. 

Just as they do for corporate leaders across the country, Ahearn, Ford and Wilk lead sessions in “yes, and” thinking for TCU Neeley students. 

TCU MBA Greg Donohue said the workshop affirmed the importance of focusing on the positive rather than the negative. 

“As we move forward in our careers, we’re more likely to succeed when we focus on why something can be accomplished instead of why it can’t,” he said.  

Classmate Michelle Mantooth said the workshop provided an entertaining and engaging way to reinforce the importance of a positive attitude and getting out of your comfort zone.  

“Putting yourself out there is the best way to get ahead and into opportunities you might have missed out on by saying no or just assuming it isn’t possible,” Mantooth said.

Four Day Weekend also delivers the workshop to Neeley Fellows at the beginning of the three-year undergraduate program. 

Madelyn Carlson was called into the center of a circle of her classmates to begin the hot spot exercise: the person in the center has to sing a song until someone taps her out and takes her place. 

“Singing in public is my worst nightmare,” Carlson said. “I looked around the circle at my peers and became even more nervous. I thought to myself, if I were in their position I would not want to tap someone out. I pulled myself together to sing a song I learned in kindergarten. Eventually someone tapped me out and I was so relieved.”

At the end of the exercise, Carlson and her classmates got the message: They could have been saved quickly if they had all supported each other and made their colleagues’ needs as important as their own. 

The sophomores also learned lessons in listening. 

“The way we listen to people, I never really thought about it,” Matt Williams said, “but [visualize] that what someone is saying is their arm, and most of us stop listening at the elbow. We use the rest of the arm to think about what we are going to say. One of the exercises was to listen to the end of the fingertip and start your sentence with the last word they said.”

It’s a lesson he took to heart when going to career fairs. “That’s a great way to do networking, by applying ‘yes, and’ to make people feel welcome and known,” he said. “We’re not just using elevator pitches. We have conversational skills and processes that a lot of other people don’t think about.”

Will Beasley also found the workshop both fun and useful. “In my group projects this semester we worked effectively and efficiently because we were able to recognize each other’s ideas and support them to create something great,” he said. 

“Wouldn’t it be great is everything was like that?” Wilk of Four Day Weekend asked. 

What if it already is? Empathy, acceptance, respect and encouragement are taught right alongside accounting, finance, marketing, information systems and supply chain at TCU Neeley. 

“I think ‘yes, and’ is exemplified at the Neeley School because there is an atmosphere of respect and unity here,” Carlson said. “Ideas offered by every student have the potential to be great, with a positive attitude and some help from teammates.”  

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