An idea I came across recently in the book The Imagineering Workout comes from Martin Sklar, the Vice Chairman and Principal Creative Exec at WD Imagineering.
He brought out that Buzz Price began a practice when answering questions and reporting findings to Walt himself, and that was to start with “Yes, if…” rather than No, because…”
“No, because…” is a deal breaker. It says “there’s a brick wall that we can’t go thru, over, under or around.” Move along, there’s nothing to see here. This idea is DOA, and if it is to survive, then it must be resuscitated by someone with greater vision and/or authority. “No, because…” is negative in perspective, boxing in ideas before they’ve had a chance to run free to see what other places they may lead us. An idea that isn’t free to run cannot lead us to other ideas that we haven’t considered yet. “No, because…” feels to your team like an idea has been rejected.
“Yes, if…” is the language of possibility. It doesn’t promise the world, but it does do a good job of laying out the landscape and highlighting the obstacles that must be overcome in order to achieve the desired outcome. Once the “if…” is laid out, the entire team has the ability to visualize the challenges and begin to formulate solutions to defeat them. Costs can be calculated, risks can be assessed, and THEN decisions can be made. “Yes, if…” can lead to new avenues of thought that can not only help you reach that goal, but completely redefine and improve the entire project. I’ve personally seen a number of cases where “yes, if…” has not only lead to a good solution to the current project, but the solution has in turn benefited other projects simply because the answer improved upon a product, service or process that these other systems depend on.
And the fact is, the more creative your team is, the more they will thrive on answers that start with “yes, if…”
“Yes, if…” won’t guarantee that an action is taken or that a goal is planned, but an idea is more likely to be fully explored than if it had been delivered with a “no, because…”.
The Imagineering Workout can be found here.
This is NOT an affiliate link, because I live in the state of CT, who have made the very questionable move to charge full sales tax on all affiliate programs, and so Amazon and a whole slew of other online businesses have pulled their affiliate programs from this state.