Practice Saying "Yes"

The word “yes” is empowering.  It opens new opportunities.  It beckons innovation.  It delivers the most successful business programs and products. It can even make history.

Gil Amelio, the Apple CEO who would be succeeded by a returning Steve Jobs in 1997, cited Apple’s “undisciplined corporate culture” as a key problem.  Steve Jobs said, “You have to be run by ideas, not hierarchy. The best ideas have to win.”  Who do you think was guided by “no” and who was guided by “yes”?

“Yes” is so powerful that businesses put multiple safeguards in place to keep it in check. Almost every decision has to go through an approval process. Have you ever ordered lunch for a meeting and been reprimanded for not having approval to do so?  ”Yes” is corporate nitroglycerin.  ”No” is the corporate after-dinner mint.

To be fair, effective organizations have to align key functions around a “yes”. If funds aren’t available, if there are legal ramifications, if production isn’t available – any of these or a multitude of other factors can cripple an idea and thrust a company into trouble.

The problem is that business tries very hard to push most decisions to “no”.  Search “saying yes” on the Harvard Business Review website.  Three articles – all centered around the theme of saying “yes” to saying “no”.  Not really a “yes” at all.  

Saying “yes” to new ideas requires Informed Optimism.  If your outlook isn’t positive, no idea will resonate or take shape.  Dr. Richard C Senelick says, “Optimism is the inclination toward hope, and it determines how we come to terms with our present, future and past events.”  In other words, an optimist is more willing to envision the success and rewards of a new idea than to focus on the potential of failure.

Blind optimism is a road to disaster because it lacks grounding.  You must understand  your environment and the factors that create success.  Practical experience reduces evaluation time and provides greater confidence in decisions.  Add healthy optimism to that mix and you have a recipe for innovation and success.

Think of proposals or other new ideas you’re been asked to review.   Did you reject most outright?  Did you approve some only after significant revision?  Did you accept any outright?   What was your “no/yes” ratio?

Practice saying “yes”.  Listen to proposals with informed optimism.  Consider the good that can come of a “yes”.  Step towards risk within your information comfort zone.  Keep moving towards the edge with your “yes” decisions.  Find that perfect balance of informed optimism and you will begin to enjoy more notable success and greater personal satisfaction.