The attack of the Yabuts!
Nothing sucks the blood out of a great idea faster than the dreaded “Yabut…” In fact, the “Yabut” may be the No. 1 killer of collaboration, cooperation, great ideas and innovation in organizations. You know what “Yabuts” are, don’t you? They are those prickly little creatures that make noises like; “Yabut, the banks will never back us on this one… Yabut, the market is totally unpredictable… Yabut, we’ve never done that before…”
Let’s take Stephen, for example. Stephen is a recently promoted Director in the Business Development division of a large financial services company. During a strategic planning meeting, he suggested that they should explore how to be more effective in how they manage certain new initiative assignments. Although several of his colleagues looked at him with faces of interest, the Committee Leader quickly replied, “Yabut, we really don’t have time to be playing around with our management process at this point, even if we all do feel a little pressure” And that was that.
Stephen had made several suggestions about new ideas and opportunities since his appointment to the Strategic Planning Committee, and it seemed that every one of them was answered with some form of the same species of “Yabut…” It was not just Stephen of course; in fact, his colleagues had received that same sort of response with such frequency that the meetings had slowly become a routine of simply answering the questions and listening for your new task. Any meaningful conversation and debate had really just died.
So how do we kill the “Yabuts” before they suck the blood out of our potential growth and prosperity? Replace them forever with a whole new species of “Yesands…”! A much nicer animal in fact, not prickly at all, it makes nurturing noises like: “Yes, and with a more promising corporate strategy, we could negotiate with our banks for better overall conditions… Yes, and we can leverage the market study to include a long needed loyalty review of our most profitable accounts… Yes, and we could learn more about that idea’s potentially positive impact on our current business lines…”
A particularly articulate form of the animal has been heard in creativity dialogues using the phrase structure: “Yes, what I like about what you are saying is [identify anything positive inside the person’s comment that you can, even if you do not agree with the entire thought]… And, [build on top of the point with a positive idea of your own]…” Used consecutively during the dialogue, team members build on top of each other’s thinking, and the results are quite amazing! People feel more confident, become more cooperative, open up and think, put more ideas on the table, nourish those ideas, and as a result, creativity and innovation soar!
I encourage you to do a little self-listening. How frequently do you encounter “Yabuts” in your own yard? Make sure you are not breeding them without even realizing it. Kill them off quickly and replace them with a good healthy herd of “Yesands”. In fact, you can take it a step further and replace nearly every use of the word “but” with “and”, and the results are guaranteed to surprise you, delight your audience, and foster a remarkable outcome. Every time you hear yourself say, “but,” change it to “and.” In that moment, you’re breaking the habit of closed thinking. The more you do it, the more open your thinking will become, and the more open your counterpart’s thinking will become. As with any habit, it takes time to break. And it’s worth it.
Note: For more on “Yabuts”, their effect on corporate vision & strategy development, and what to do about it, check out Scott’s book Time Machine Leadership, available at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.