Yes, and…..brilliant!

One of the most difficult tasks in business is brainstorming new ideas. The wonderful workshop I went to yesterday at the Brave New Workshop TheaterInnovating at the speed of Laughter” tackled the problems a lot of companies have with encouraging employees to think outside the box and share their ideas. They point out that one of the biggest hurdles is self-judgment. People are naturally apprehensive about feeling foolish or saying the wrong thing. The often talk themselves out of sharing good ideas because past experiences of idea sharing resulted in a long litany of reasons why their idea won’t work. John Sweeney, co-owner of the theater, conducted the workshop. Sweeney’s idea is for people to change their thinking toward ideas. A positive response can go a long way to encouraging more ideas being shared. One good way to do this is by starting your response to an idea with “Yes, and….” This shows you are both listening and still open to the idea. While every idea may not be feasible or appropriate, you goal here is to encourage the behavior of idea sharing.  So you response could be “Yes and I appreciate you sharing that idea with me” or “Yes, and can you tell me a little more about that?” Such a simple change from the usual “Yes, but” can help the ideas keep flowing!

How do you receive new ideas? Do you kill them before the person sharing leaves your desk? What are some ways you keep yourself from staunching the flow of ideas?

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3 responses to “Yes, and…..brilliant!

  1. I did not learn this lesson until very recently. I spend many years shooting down ideas before they ever got out of the gate. I would list this as one of the greatest weaknesses I had as a leader for the first part of my career. One of my direct reports very uncomfortably pointed it out one day, and it hit me harder than any feedback I have ever recieved because I knew it was true. I still probably not great at inspiring people to speak freely, but I am better. Progress is all I can strive for. Great post.

    • Better late than never. The cool thing is that these improv exercises showed how unconsciously we react this way. It is not our doubt in others that spurs this reaction, it is our own self doubt!

  2. Think of brain storming as pulling all the ingredients out of the cabinet and building the recipe from items you find that work together.

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