(Updated) Two words that kill innovation and creativity

This past week, I had the privilege of guest blogging for online leadership think tank, LeaderLab. A re-posting of my updated post is below and here. I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

Every moment and in every interaction we are capable of choosing our “performances” and how we act, behave, and respond in a given situation.

Often our performances, and our reactions are habitual, instinctive, and we aren’t even aware of the mindset that’s ingrained in us or our companies.

But is this mindset decreasing your organizational capacity for innovation?

It’s possible these two little words are killing the innovation and creativity of your team:

“Yes, But”.

Reflect on how you and your company respond to new or untested ideas. Do you “but” ideas to death? And in doing so, do you cast a negative light on risk-taking, failure, and openness.

The unconscious performance might look like this:

“Yes, but it won’t work”

“Yes, but we don’t have the time”

“Yes, but we tried something similar before and it didn’t work”

Researcher Shawn Achor from Harvard tells us 75% of or job successes at work come from optimism, our ability to see stress as a challenge instead of a threat, and social support at work.

When we are met with a “yes, but” attitude to our ideas and innovations, it can be difficult maintain the motivation to do our best work and to feel support for our contributions.

I’m not advocating a company full of just “yes” men. Instead, we can choose a performance that involves less judgement, more open-mindedness, acceptance of others ideas, and a willingness to build on ideas instead of rejecting them.

Luckily, research from Achor (and others) tells us we can train our brain to become more positive. Through practice and habit building, we can learn to scan the world through a lens of positivity, instead of negativity and to create more conscious performances that involve the words “Yes, and”, instead of “Yes, but”.

Think about all of the performance choices you have every day. How can your performance increase and not block the flow of ideas, open communication and an open mind.

“But….” , just give it a try!

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