When it comes to making innovation stick, my experience is that there are two types of people: those who are wired to say “yes” to new ideas and those that are wired to say “no.”
Multiple times during my career I have been responsible for the growth agenda for a major company. That typically included helping the CEO and senior team figure out how to accelerate growth in the existing lines of business, as well as exploring ways to grow in new areas, be that through creating new concepts or acquisitions. It’s pretty hard to be successful in this sort of role if you aren’t wired to say “yes.”
Ironically, I did not start out in business that way, but that’s another story and you can read about it here: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2010/07/insubordinate-50th-anniverary-free-ebook.html
Among those that are wired to say “no” you have folks so consumed by fear that they will never take a chance and therefore, sadly, will never create anything new. But there is power in the “no” sometimes. The Doubting Thomas and the Devil’s Advocate often make ideas stronger through their skepticism.
But ultimately if a company is serious about generating meaningful sources of profitable new growth it must fundamentally be looking for reasons to say “yes” to a new idea, rather than lining up all the potential “no’s.”
I once worked for a CEO who said he wanted growth, but when it came down to it, every time a new idea was presented he found myriad reasons to shoot it down or tread water. It took me a while–too long in fact–to realize he was wired to say “no.” He wasn’t going to change, and neither was I. It was time to move on.
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