The Center for Creative Leadership writes about four mindsets that inhibit positive organizational change. One of those mindsets that pervades and stops progress in its tracks is a “yes, but…” mentality.
You know the type of thinking that keeps us from moving forward. We hear it every day. Yet, often times this insidious negative framing operates at a threshold below most peoples’ awareness. How important is language in the way we frame change? Language is everything. Positive change and innovative collaboration operate on a “yes, and!” openness. “Yes, and!” is a recognition that each person in an organization plays an important part and yet no one person controls the final outcome.
“Yes, but…” by contrast is about control – trying to control outcomes. Does any one person have control over innovation? The answer is no – we influence to be sure, yet we never exert total control. Collaboration and change cannot happen with a “yes, but…” way of thinking at any level of the organization. In improvisation, we call this “denying an offer” and that can have a negative impact on the final outcome because one person is trying to “drive” the scene to his or her desired result.
The same is true in business when we co-create. Have you ever tried to collaborate with someone who used the “yes, but…” control device with you? Exactly how long would it take you to stop trying to generate fresh ideas when you are “stopped” at every turn with a “but?” That’s precisely what happens in many organizations. The “yes, but” stops innovative thinking and behavior long before most organizations are aware of its pervasiveness. Yet, change is an activity that requires collaboration in order to succeed.
We need to change our perspective and change our language by adopting a “yes, and!” orientation. Try “yes, and!” the next time during brainstorming, and see the effect on energy in the room. When we let go of the idea that we have control, we stop trying so hard to control a particular outcome. That frees us up to focus on our own contributions, and allows the best ideas to spring up as people co-create together. A “yes, and” approach to collaboration, innovation and change is the difference between untapped human potential and realized human capital.
Next time you’re in a meeting notice how many “yes, buts” occur. When you have the chance, “yes, and!’” see how that one small difference can change the collaborative environment – and results! – in your world.