I have said "yes" to lots of things I had no clue how to do - partner with real estate developers to create a church-centered community, join a board of directors for a mutual fund, start a new campus where no one speaks the same language as me. Foolish? Some would say yes. But I have learned that if you want to be involved in innovative and creative new things, you have to "lead with a yes". "Lead with a yes" is a common saying around the Community Christian Church staff. And there are times "leading with a yes" has got us in over our heads and feeling overwhelmed. But far more often it has allowed us to be apart of new and exciting ventures that have helped us better accomplish our mission!
Peter Block makes this point in his book, The Answer To How Is Yes. You gotta love that title. If you never ever read the book at least reference the title when you are challenging people to take risks and "lead with a yes". How do you change the culture of your organization or church so that it is innovative and creative? The answer to how is "yes".
If you want to be a a more innovative person or create a culture of innovation in your organization, try a few of these:
Develop a "yes" reflex. Most of us have a "no" reflex to new and creative ideas that are impossible. But you can change this. Practice saying "yes" to your kids, spouse and friends. Leading with a "yes" can be learned and can be taught to a whole organization. So the next time someone has a new opporunity make sure the first words that come out of your mouth are "yes".
"Yes" gives you time to figure it out. If you can train yourself to have a "yes" reflex it really doesn't commit you to doing or implementing the idea. Before "yes" ever commits you to doing something it actually buys you time to figure out how you are going to make it happen. Many times I have said "yes" and then gone back to the office and asked Troy or Jon, "can we do this?" See how that works? "Yes" gives you time to figure out if you can really pull it off.
There is always time to say "not yet". If you have a "no" reflex you rob yourself of the time to talk about the idea and figure out if the impossible is possible. But if you lead with a "yes" that gives you the time you need to discuss and explore how to make it happen. If after the extra time you decide the impossible is impossible you can still come back and say, "we talked about it and we still love the idea...but just not yet...".
"Not yet" is always better than "no" I always prefer "not yet" to no. This is not about losing all boundaries - that is another post for another time; this is about how innovation happens. And innovation happens in places where "no" is seldom heard and "not yet" is preferred to "no". "Not yet" keeps opportunities alive and keeps people thinking and improving their ideas.
If you want innovation, "lead with a yes".