Have you ever pitched an idea you were passionate about, only to have it shot down without an iota of consideration? Are you walking into pitching sessions expecting to hear “no because” / “we tried that last year” / “it’s not a strategic brand fit” or perhaps the most dreaded… “hmmmm that’s interesting” (possibly punctuated by an eye roll)?
The reality is that great ideas are squashed regularly – either in their infancy or in less tangible terms of being a potential catalyst for an idea that could have built off of the original. If the very goal of an Ideation Session is to bring these innovative ideas to market, why then do we insist on consistently putting up these blockades?
The more experience and expertise we have in a given area, the more we tend to default to why an idea might won’t work, rather than considering how it could. I call this our ‘River of Thinking’. Trapped in years of our own knowledge and expertise, we predict potentially hundreds of reasons why each idea won’t succeed, considering them through our very specific paradigms and not seeing the bigger potential. So how do we avoid the dreaded trap of ‘No Because’ and end this senseless loss of potential genius?
When beginning a session, it is important to set the tone for the goal of the day by clearly Signalling that the session you are about to lead is an Expansionist session, and that you are looking for big ideas. Reductionist Thinking can be reserved for another day. I will cover the importance of the creative behaviour of Signalling in an upcoming blog post.
The key to harnessing the momentum of your ideation sessions and to keep the innovations flowing is as simple as ‘Yes And’. Simply ask each participant in to begin each sentence or response to an idea with these two very simple words. ‘Yes And!’ You’ll be amazed at the immediate transformation of the energy in the room.
Almost instantly you will notice an increase in laughter (recall the importance of Playfulness in unlocking the door between your conscious and subconscious brain for stimulus enhancement from my previous post on the topic). Shortly following this surge of joy, you will see people discover their hands while demonstrating their ideas and further opening their kinaesthetic knowledge into the session. Then, you will notice how each idea expands upon the last, with the ideas getting bigger and bigger, seemingly without limit. At this time, it is wise to remember that you can always reverse engineer a big idea back, but it is nearly impossible to take a pithy, uninspiring idea and turn it into something of value.
‘Yes And’ stops the ‘Yes Or’ people dead in their tracks. The ‘Yes Or’ people are those who pretend that they have heard and are in support of your idea, before simply just shouting out their own idea. ‘Yes Or’ brings no value to the session – keep an ear for it and work to coach your participants back to finding their ‘Yes And’.
Most important of all, ‘Yes And’ turns ‘my idea’ into ‘our idea,’ which creates a sense of pride and ownership in participants, instantly overcoming a huge barrier to buy in (and therefore execution). The moment you can transform ‘my idea’ into ‘our idea’ is the pivotal moment that you exponentially accelerate the idea’s likelihood of coming to life, both bolstering and fostering current and future innovation and creative potential. I define Creativity as the ability to have the big ideas, whereas Innovation is the ability to get these ideas executed successfully. Incorporating ‘Yes And’ is one of my strongest tools to do just that!