The TidalScale Blog

    The One Word That Kills Startups

    Posted by Michael Berman on Feb 7, 2017 4:00:00 AM
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    One word can kill a startup:

    "No."

    "No" is a powerful antidote to innovation. I don't say this lightly. I say it because "no" can be equally as radioactive as some of the original four letter words themselves. It can be devastating and crippling. And it should be retired for good in any environment where ideas and innovation are not just important, but downright existential.

    Building an excellent development culture has many challenges. Being open to new ideas and changing the "way things are done" can be daunting. Saying "No" to new ideas calcifies old bad habits and stymies good ones. 

    My suggestion? Replace "No" with "Yes and ..."

    This is a concept I borrowed from the field of comedy improvisation.  If you have ever watched the show "Whose Line is it Anyway," you already know that in the mercurial pool of creativity that is comedy improv, you never say, "No."

    I invite you to think about your recent interactions and be aware of where you have said “No.”  Sometimes, “No” can be hard to see — dressed up in reasoned expository, or hidden in subtle criticism. But no matter how you clothe it, “No” kills ideas, stops communication, and creates a culture where people stop expressing new thoughts. 

    When it comes to team culture and team communication, “No” is a team killer.  It kills initiative. The “culture of no” is what makes a startup fail and makes big companies stultify.

    When one of your team presents an idea, even an idea that seems stupid or just silly, please remember at a startup you must say NO! to “No.” This doesn't mean you have to love every idea. (Come on, we only love our own ideas, right?) But if we as a team are to succeed and develop the best product we can, then we must commit ourselves to the discipline of meeting every new idea with, “Yes, and …”

    “Yes, and …” is what transforms an idea into a collaboration. “Yes, and …” gives everyone ownership of the new idea, and it gives you a chance to voice opinion and criticism in a positive manner. “Yes, and …” enables us to grow and polish ideas so they can become great. “Yes, and …” creates opportunities. “Yes, and …” is the difference between an exceptional individual and a super-team.

    I have an idea: How about ditching that word for good?  (Hint: The correct answer starts with "Yes, and...")

    Read more about TidalScale and/or attend my Data Science Central Webinar scheduled for 9AM PST this coming Tuesday, February 14.

    Topics: innovation, culture, success factors, start ups, team building, entrepreneurship