When someone (anyone) proposes a solution to a problem, presents a new idea, or introduces a new design, the natural tendency of onlookers is to immediately begin deconstruction, looking for elements that won’t work and reasons why a proposed method/design/idea might fail.
Why would we ever do this to ourselves?
Doesn’t it seem logical that pooling a bunch of negativity at the base of a fresh, vulnerable new idea would eat away at the support structure? What could possibly be productive about shooting an idea down before it even gets off the ground?
Now this may seem like a radical approach, but it shouldn’t be: instead of immediately looking for the shortcomings in an emerging solution, look for qualities worth admiring, elements worth building upon.
Even if there’s only a shred of viability, that’s what should be noted first. If nothing else, it will get whatever team is reviewing the idea thinking in the right direction – after all, the goal is to find and create solutions, not to dwell on things that won’t solve the issue at hand.
When you can get a group (or even an individual) looking for the positives first, it opens the gates for collaboration, for the snowballing of ideas that will yield the best possible results. This is the behavior of building rather that destroying. Instead of picking apart each other’s ideas, we use them to generate ideas of our own. It’s the classic “Yes, and…” mentality, most famous in improvisational theater. It means going with the flow, exploring the path laid in front of you by a fellow collaborator, and above all, making an effort to build instead of destroy.
Just imagine how this might affect the morale of a team, if everyone’s immediate reaction to a new idea was to find its most praise-worthy points, looking for what will work instead of what won’t.
If this process is repeated long enough, there will be so many good ideas floating around that the best solution is bound to emerge. The next time someone proposes a new idea, look for possibilities not problems.
This doesn’t mean that every idea is golden, or that there won’t be less-than-perfect elements to a proposal, but when we allow ourselves to go straight for the downside, we may overlook a subtle opportunity that just needed a little encouragement.
Try positivity for a change – it will make all the difference.
Anil Saxena is the President of Cube 2.14, an organizational development consulting firm that works with clients to increase both customer and employee engagement while decreasing turnover, improving customer retention, and increasing profitability within organizations.
Saxena is a certified High Impact coach and trainer and a Joint Application Design facilitator. He is also certified by both Rush Systems and IBM as a focus group facilitator. He is an inaugural member of Northwestern University’s Learning and Organizational Change program, and he earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology.