Don't just say no; say yes to something else

Created By
Bo (COO)
Last updated
January 11, 2021
Reading time
3 mins

I recently was part of a spirited discussion where someone had an idea for an experiment, and in the discussion other folks brought up very valid objections. I wrote this to that group and wanted to share broadly:

I see folks bringing reasons why this won't work - but rather than leaving it "not this" can we extend it to "not this but what about this other idea" to try to address the same goal? I call this don't just say "no", but say "yes" to something else specific instead. This moves the conversation forward and moves all of our thinking forward. Lay out your own plan. It's easier to be a critic, harder to find a better solution that navigates the nuanced issues, and we should do the hard work because that's what creates value for our customers.

This is important to me because in this case the idea died. I don’t want us to be a company where ideas die - I want us to be a company where ideas get refined, honed, and tested.

Let’s keep this in mind the next time someone brings you an idea. Even if you don’t think it’ll work, try to help that person refine it into something that will work.


P.S. This general idea was said well by Eugene Wei: Why do companies slow down as they grow larger? One reason is that in a hierarchical organizational structure, the more people and more levels you pile in, the more chances someone somewhere will say no to any idea. Bureaucracy is just institutionalized veto power growing linearly with organizational size.

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