Wired to say “yes”

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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Author: stevenpdennis

Steven Dennis is a trusted advisor and thought-leader on customer-centric strategic growth and innovation. As President of SageBerry Consulting, he applies his C-level executive experience to drive growth and marketing strategy for multi-channel retail, e-commerce and luxury industry clients. He shares his ideas and wisdom regularly in the press, as an industry speaker and through his popular blog "Zen and the Art & Science of Customer-Centricity"(https://stevenpdennis.wordpress.com/). Prior to founding SageBerry, Steven was Senior Vice President of Strategy, Business Development and Marketing for the Neiman Marcus Group. As a member of the Executive Committee he drove the company's major growth initiatives, multi-channel marketing programs and customer insight agenda. Before joining Neiman Marcus, Steven held leadership positions with Sears, including Acting Chief Strategy Officer, Lands' End acquisition integration team leader, Vice President-Multichannel Integration and General Manager-Commercial Sales. Earlier in his career he was with NutraSweet and the global management strategy consulting firm, Booz & Co. Steven received his MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BA from Tufts University. In addition to his consulting work, Steven is an executive-in-residence at the JC Penney Center for Retail Excellence at SMU’s Cox School of Business, President of the DFW Retail Executives Association and serves on the Advisory Boards of Invodo Inc. and Nectar Online Media. He is also active in the social innovation and education reform arena as a Partner and member of the Board of Directors of Dallas Social Venture Partners. He is currently co-leader of DSVP's investment and engagement with SMU's Center on Communities and Education "School Zone" initiative in West Dallas.

5 thoughts on “Wired to say “yes””

  1. It’s funny isn’t it Steve. We applaud CEO’s for having courage of conviction but in truth one of the greatest shows of strength is the ability to let go of one’s convictions in the face of a new idea or information. As you put it, the ability to say “yes”.

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