Why do people say no? Collecting thoughts
I’m often brought into companies who want to overcome hurdles to innovation. They want to move forward and at the same time are reluctant to adopt new strategies and metrics, and to influence new behaviours and attitudes to create new futures. What’s that all about?
Time and again the largest obstacle to moving innovation forward is getting people to say yes
- Books like the 1981 bestseller Getting to Yes show how to negotiate to achieve an affirmative response.
- New-idea handling strategies like the Angel’s Advocate show how to receive new thinking to harvest their intended and unintended value exist
- Television programs like Dragon’s Den (Canada) or Shark Tank (US) show how some entrepreneurs successfully pitch new products for investor worthiness.
People keep saying no. It’s like the story when I asked my anthropology professor Dr. Jill Nash how anthropologists would define creativity, “it’s bad manners,” she said. “Do something creative at the dinner table and you get your hand slapped.”
Are you familiar with responses people use that embody ‘the handslap’? Some call them killer phrases: cost too much, no room in the budget, it’ll get me fired, won’t work, tried that before, not intriguing enough, not well thought through, etc.
Many reasons for no, agree? Values, frameworks, standards, ethics, identity, education (what people have learned is true), upbringing, taking care of family, lack of adequate details, the effort it would take, maintaining relationships, fear of loss, spiritual beliefs, measurement standards, peer pressure, and unconscious factors. People may say no because to say yes would be irresponsible, boring, show incompetence, or subtract from one’s person meaning and significance. The proposal may not fit other people’s vision of the future, their sense of safety and belonging, may detract from their sense of self-worth or belonging to a community. All reasons are honourable; every one is absolutely right.
On one level when people say no, they are really saying, “We like status quo and want to keep things the way they are.” Trouble is there ain’t no way status quo stays. There’s too much evidence to prove the case. Consider shifts in social (social networking), technological (smart phone anyone?), environmental (climate change), economic (where’s the US dollar at?) and political (Arab Spring) areas. Take a look at your industry and name five new things that have come about in the recent past, also consider what’s coming in the next three years or so. What new business models have emerged? What new directions are you considering to met the challenge of external change mixing with internal drive?
With all the ‘no’ saying going on, how will the future we want to create emerge? What do you think it takes to get a yes? Or is it even that cut and dry.
Might there be a third option we haven’t used or considered that lies somewhere outside of the yes/no conundrum? A place where creative ideas and proposals (aka new ideas and new decisions) might safely exist?
Have you ever wondered what the world would be like if the ratio of ‘no’ to ‘yes’ shifted? Suppose more people said yes than no. What might happen as a result? What does that look like?