The phrase that kills workplace ideas, innovation and collaboration

The phrase that kills workplace ideas, innovation and collaboration. You may have noticed in your meetings when ideas are introduced they often don't progress - this could be because people are mentally shutting them down by answering an idea with the words, "Yes, but..." 

It's amazing how just changing a word when we respond can make a huge difference. 

Instead, if colleagues reply, "Yes, and..." It can be more productive and help people expand their thinking. 

This approach is useful for everyone, particularly if you're leading a session aimed at developing ideas. 

Watch my video for an example of this in action.

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The phrase that kills workplace ideas, innovation and collaboration

Penny Haslam

Bit Famous works with businesses and organisations
to help them communicate with confidence.

By Penny Haslam

MD and Founder - Bit Famous

Transcript: The phrase that kills workplace ideas, innovation and collaboration.

I’ve got a smashing tip for you this time. It’s the difference between opening up ideas for exploration and shutting them down. I’d love you to just observe what happens in the meetings and interactions that you have with people in your workplace to see whether the habit is to shut ideas down or to help them flourish. So let’s get stuck in through the medium of GCSE Drama grade A. Thank you very much.

How "Yes but.." Kills workplace ideas, innovation and collaboration

I’m going to show you the negative of what happens in meetings when people have an idea and you might hear this phrase. It’s "yes, but" and it’s dangerous. It closes ideas down; observe if it’s happening in your place because I bet it is. And I bet it happens a little bit too often. In a moment, I’ll show you the positive version, but let’s have a go into character.

Scenario: the impact of negativity on innovation 

Colleague 1: "I’ve got an idea, right? How about we get the department heads to talk to their teams about this new project? And then all of the departments can reflect back and maybe do a little video or something like that just to show what they’ve done?"

Colleague 2: "Yeah, but the problem with that is that the department heads aren’t really into this sort of stuff."

Or colleague 3: "Yeah, but, you know, what I’m thinking is that it’s just very complicated to communicate with everyone."

And colleague 4: "Yeah, but we have tried this before, and it never really got very far."

Do you see what was happening there? The idea was completely getting closed down, wasn’t it? And that’s no good for the person with the idea or the general sense in the room that a problem can be solved.

Cultivating a 'Yes, and...' Culture for better collaboration 

So let’s look at the better option and a different choice of words. 

Colleague 1: "I’ve got an idea. How about we get all the department heads to, you know, share the idea with their teams, and then when they’ve done the work, just do a little video, and then we can share that, and then the clients can see what we do, and then we can see each other as well. I think it’d be really good."

 Colleague 2: "Yes and that is great, because what it means is that we can begin to tell people about it. And even if they don’t go with the idea, at least they’ll know then, won’t they?"

Colleague 3: "Yes. And if they all know about it, they’ll probably be really motivated to do it for themselves."

Colleague 4: "Yes. And how about we start with just one department just to do a pilot?"

Colleague 5: "Yes. And then head office will be able to see it. Yes, and I know someone there who would be really into this."

Implementing positive changes: simple and effective strategies 

This is really simple, really effective and easy to implement immediately so you could start doing it yourself and seeing how things go. 

  • You could share this video with others and get them to have a go at it in meetings themselves. 
  • Or you could gamify it at your next team meeting and have a prize for someone who says "yes, and" more than anyone else. 
  • Make it fun and make it something that you begin to embed for everyone. 

Because it makes our working lives so much more wonderful when we say "yes and".